Monday, August 31, 2009

Skin Whiteners

Despite the vast quantities of sun-tanning products in the West, in Asia it is somewhat different.

In Hong Kong, these skin whitener adverts were quite common, but in India they are shown even more frequently.

Traditionally the rich didn´t have to work in the fields, so were paler than the poor. This left-over remnant of the “bad old days” remains in strong contrast to the West, where people blessed in warmer climes sun-bath at every possible opportunity, or those that are not, who spray on tans or sit under UV lamps to replicate an “exotic” appearance.

Interestingly, they refer to the whiteness as “glow” (equally synonymous with a tan) and about 20% of these advertisements are aimed at the male market.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Video Nights in Kathmandu

I finally got round to reading this book. Originally published in 1985, Mr Iyer travelled around Asia and examined Western influences in the region. Whilst some of his observations are somewhat puerile and subjective (most noticeably his views given on Hong Kong where he spends a few days with his la di da ex-patriot friends and comes away thinking he knows all there is to the Territory), and Thailand and The Philippines where he spends most of his time in girlie bars in Bangkok and Manila.

Yet in other areas he shows good perception drawing an interesting analogy between the Japan psyche and their love of baseball, as well as his time spent in Burma. He also shares some interesting facts, including the 1906 mass suicide of the Balinese royal family and one of my favourite anecdotes about Rudyard Kipling who was shaved every night in the tropics as he slept.

Whilst I´m sure not many travellers would be surprised in his “findings”, in the reprint for 2001 Iyer has added an “Afterword” recognising that there are probably more Eastern influences on Western life. There is a Thai restaurant in pretty much every city and town and US call centres out-sourced to India. Spot on!

Aub´s Verdict: A classic for its time, but well past it´s sell-by date.

Ed´s Note: Iyer has done some writings on time spent with His Holiness Dalai Lama, but haven´t got the time for such indulgences at the moment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Restoration of Lhasa?

Scanned photo of Potala Palace taken in 2000

Associated Press announced this week the completion of seven years of renovation work of the magnificent Potala Palace at a cost of some US$43.9 million.

This follows hard on the heels of renovations to Samye monastery (US$13.9 million) and the Nor Bu Linka (Dalai Lama´s Summer Palace).

"The repairs to the three key cultural relics is an important part in the conservation of the Tibetan culture," said Liu Yandong, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo, who attended the ceremony.

More than 189,000 workers were involved in these three projects.
Xinhua quoted a former director of the Potala's administration office saying the palace could now accommodate 1,000 visitors a day.

The renovations are part of a 570 million yuan ($73 million) plan to promote tourism to Tibet, a mainstay of the region's economy, and include the repair to 22 cultural sites.

All that´s missing now is His Holiness Dalai Lama!

Despite the numerous tourist bans imposed on foreigners since the run-in to last year´s Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese government know it´s onto a gold-mine. Foreign tourists might be banned intermittently, but Han Chinese tourists are increasingly visiting for a touch of Winter Wonderland.

Chinese tourists in Lhasa

I haven´t stepped foot in Lhasa since 2000, and it was already in bad shape. The old town was restricted to a few roads coming off the Jokhang temple and around the kora, the cement houses that are inhabited by Chinese swamped the surrounding area - the Tibetans were already a minority in their own capital city.

Earlier this year China tightened restrictions on advertising and construction outside the palace, following calls from the United Nations to better preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site's natural setting.

With the rail link in place Han Chinese tourist makers are arriving from across the country. On more than one occasion i have heard it compared to Disneyland with karaoke and prostitutes.

I´d still like to go back there – even as just an interim stop back to Kailash. I might just have to wait for the train line to get there though!

Lhasa station. Up to Kailash? I wish!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The End is in Sight - Studying for my Masters

The reason for returning to the UK this summer was to complete my MA in International Education which i´m doing through Oxford Brookes University. It has been a long struggle, but the end is well in sight.

It seems appropriate to be working on this in Dharamsala - after all, it´s very name nae translates as "the home of learning".

My Masters thesis looks at young students´ acquisition of reading and spelling skills. Yes..pretty worthwhile methinks!

It is a case study on an accelerated phonics programme – known as “synthetic phonics”. Original research was started in Scotland, and following it´s successes, has now been adopted in the English National Curriculum in the new Literacy Strategy.

I am looking for patterns in an International setting where students often have English as a Second or additional language. Indeed these Hong Kong-based students were in some cases being exposed to a romanised alphabetic system for the first time.

Initial analysis of the data show that these four and five year old International students were on average 13 months in advance of students in Australia in both reading and spelling. Interesting stuff indeed!

It does however encroach on what was labelled “The Great Debate” which has been raging for over 70 years - phonics or Whole-Language approach? The pendulum has swung slowly across the spectrum there and back again. Unfortunately I have no choice but confront this knot and strip it bare. Not so easy – who am I to settle this argument?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Loch Ness Monster on Google Earth

The Sun reported an amazing sighting of the Loch Ness monster, thus putting to bed all the sceptics who claimed the surrounding villages that border this huge lake were just trying to rake in lots of tourist wealth.

Security guard Jason, 25, of Nottingham, said: "I couldn't believe it. It's just like the descriptions of Nessie."
Researcher Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project, said: "This is really intriguing. It needs further study."

To see the object with your own eyes, enter co-ordinates Latitude 57°12'52.13"N, Longitude 4°34'14.16"W in Google Earth.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


One of the hardest parts of being away from home is missing my two nephews growing up. Although I see them a couple of times in each of my UK visits almost every year, a year is a long time in their lives. They possess all the toys young boys can dream of, a huge play-room and a garden that could host a pitch and putt course – seriously spoilt.

However they remain absolutely charming nonetheless.

David is eight, plays the piano and guitar, and has recently taken up golf! Pa started taking him to a few Watford FC matches last season.

Watch David perform on Dr. Gloves´ piano by clicking here.

Jonathan is six years old and my Godson. I take my role very seriously. In attendance for The Bub´s circumcision – traditionally the Jewish Godfather holds down the boy during the snip. Will he resent me forever? This time I had to have a few Man-to-Man chats to tackle a few non-major issues. Better than having to be pinned down for serious surgery.

I found out today that Boy and N. are expecting their own Bub. Apart from concerns that Marley (their Shetland sheepdog) will have his nose pushed out of joint, I am both delighted and excited by becoming an uncle for the third time in March 2010.

Boy will win valuable brownie points from Ma if he is able to produce a girl – a victim of four sons and two grandsons.

Ketchup from McLeod Ganj

All the difficulties have ensued since arriving back here in McLeod Ganj.

I survived a mildew attack, but it did mean hand-washing all the bedding and throwing out one of the pillows. My mobile had been cut-off and needed recharging, the promise of a faster Internet connection has failed to materialise and so I plod on with my slow, unreliable, over-priced Reliance dongle.

Worse still was to come as I was forced to open up the kitchen sink pipe to see what was causing a blockage. After 10 minutes of blowing, wiggling and water enema, I lobbed down an old shaver. Out dropped a small, dead rodent of mouse or vole-like appearance. I dry-gagged all the way to the balcony with the drowned rodent in a wrapped up tissue. It received a sky burial – of sorts.

The monsoon persists, although it is usually quite clear for a few hours each day and night. In other parts of India, water remains critically in short supply due to the water shortage, resulting in hunger and high suicide rates amongst despairing farmers. It is believed more than 1.5 million farmers have killed themselves since 1997.

An interesting article on farmer suicides from India Together can be found by clicking here.

It should be made a national priority and remain in the government´s domain rather than privatisation as the way forward. This seems considerably unlikely however, as the government are quick to pass the buck. The damage done by privatisation has been well documented by the political activist, writer and Chomskyite, Arundhati Roy.

A lot seems to have happened here in my absence. The McClo´s restaurant (as recommended by Lonely Planet and Pierce Bronson), a Dharamsala institution has changed ownership and now offers a much depleted menu, but at least it has kept on the same serving staff.

The public library has been turned into a new restaurant and relocated? I certainly can´t find it! As recipients of all books I finish reading here they have an awesome collection. I´ve already got a new pile waiting for them.

One person to ask would be Lobsang – my editor from Contact magazine, but worryingly he is currently in hospital “for tests”.

I have also yet to catch up with Panden, my English student, despite trying to leave messages oh his mobile. I miss our twice weekly classes.

Trying to settle into a proper routine has been challenging whilst my sleeping patterns remain erratic.

Having had a massive all-round scrub of the bed-sit, I have subsequently turned it into the Oxford Brookes library with papers and documents scattered about as endeavour to write a 2000 word (expanding to 6,000 words for the thesis) literary review. I´ll shortly put up a posting about the thesis I´m working on – it´s one of the most asked questions I receive from readers of Ketchup with Aubs.

The new banjo-playing neighbour is not helping matters.

Eye and Lens on the Village

playing in aggregates - near the new bus stand

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jackie, Badgers and Tennis

Jackie is an old flat-mate from my undergraduate days in Bristol. She is a local Bristolian who spent much mirth on ripping into students. Now in possession of an MA and settled in the sea-side residency of Hasting made famous by the battle of in 1066 and more recently for having one of the highest junkie rating in England.

It is still a beautiful town and I try and visit every couple of years – J. is much better at coming up to London. On this occasion I am invited to inspect her new electric fence with 30,000 volts pulsing through. Originally erected to deter the neighbours three cats, it also provides service to foxes and badgers. I´m promised endless amusing photographic opportunities of badgers getting zapped. Surely an opportunity to good to turn down?

Unfortunately my camera battery is dead from the dog agility session from the night before, so we crack open Dave´s old Canon A1 and takes me ages for us to remember how to operate a manual SLR. We quaff wine in the garden and talk in whispered voices waiting for action. It´s almost pitch black when J detects the tell-tale snuffles of badgers next door, but there is no action to see.

Undeterred by the lack of sizzling badger shots, J wants to get me on the tennis court. Now I haven´t stepped on one of these things for 10 years, but J is new to the sport (to add further fitness levels to her passion of marathon running) and wants me to provide her with a lesson or three. Ouch!

Fortunately, like riding a bicycle, it appears you never forget. Although my first serves are pretty ropey, we go through a few serve and volley scenarios and we spend a really pleasant couple of hours in the park.

Rumours quickly spread, and I am invited to further hone my skills with Boy, Pa, Pa´s “ladyfriends”, and my two nephews. Boy can play a bit and wipes me six love in the first, but I soon find my feet and win through 6 – 3, 7 – 5.

Pa who used to be a bit tasty in his day refuses to run and gets trounced. Pa plays with four ladies every Wednesday and invites me in to one of his weekly sessions with clear instructions not to wallop. It takes all my patience, especially with one of them who irritates everybody.

Tennis is good! Thanks Jackie – you got me hooked again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Harry Patch - Last British WW1 soldier

Britain´s last surviving World War One soldier died this summer.

During the last years of his 111, Harry Patch urged all that would listen never to forget the 9.7 million young men who perished in The Great War (1914-18).

A few years back I found an interesting DVD which had colourised and digitally remastered World War One of original news-reel and despite all the original footage watched in O´Level History classes, it brought back all the true horrors these soldiers had to endure. Devastating would be an understatement.

So traumatised by the experience, Patch would hold an annual private vigil for the 70,000 who died at the battle of Passchendaele, and even in his later years, could get flashbacks when he saw the light go on when he opened the refrigerator door – a classic symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“War isn´t worth one life,” he was famously quoted.

Shy and retiring, Harry Patch only began talking about his appalling experiences after turning 100, and his autobiography The Last Fighting Tommy was published in 2007.

Fittingly, Patch´s funeral service was held on July 27th at Wells Cathedral with full military honours.

Which brings me in nicely to the current war in Afghanistan. Two more British soldiers died on Friday bringing the death-toll of 206 British army personnel. A tiny proportion of the number of Afghan civilians innocently killed and which nobody seems to be counting.

Since Alexander the Great invaded the area in 330BC, countless invaders have come and gone. Including two failed attempts by the British! What the hell are the British doing there again? When will they admit defeat? Do they know what victory will look like? Clueless and pointless.

Don´t get me started on the Americans...

Lambs to the slaughter? RAF personnel flying out of Luton to Afghanistan

A Saturday Ritual - Watford Football Club

For my sins, I´ve been visiting Vicarage Road – the home of Watford Football Club - since I was four years old, and I always try and pay homage every year.

Born in nearby Garston, no-one could accuse me of glory-hunting; jumping on the bandwagon with Manchester United or the relative closeness of Arsenal. After all, as Philip Larkin would say, Watford is where my childhood was unspent.

The football club´s claim to fame is through the flamboyant Elton John – another Watford supporter addicted from an early age. Indeed, my marriage to K. was the first wedding to be held in the stadium.

My earliest travel experiences date from the time i would travel to away matches across England as a young teenager.

This year, i´m first able to attend a friendly against the Italian Series A team, Parma and watch an entertaining five goal thriller with Watford coming out victors.

There was also a moving one minute´s applause for the late, great Sir Bobby Robson – a true gentleman of football – repeated again at the first league match – Doncaster Rovers.

So it is with some confidence I´m able to witness Watford´s first match of the 09/10 season.

Click here to savour the pre-match anticipation.

Ouch! This one – all bore draw is like watching a nail rust, and Boy has to dig me in the sides to keep me awake for the full ninety minutes

I´ll listen to the live games on the potentially excellent although often erratic Watford World Home site, but i´m secretly pleased that I won´t have to watch the drivel.

I did get an opportunity to witness high-definition premiership coverage for the first time - gob-smacking!

Watford Football Club currently sit in position 12 of the Championship (2nd division), but it is going to be a long season.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Trip Up North

I´m much indebted to Jen, Rich and Isak for providing such generous hospitality for a three day rush around the North East of England.

One of the most beautiful wildernesses in England, the area had a long history of mining and ship-building. The evil Margaret Thatcher (and I mean evil) devastated the mining industry in the nineteen eighties and the docks receded in tandem.

Although there are a few signs of some economic recovery, including a co-op in every small village, wind – turbines scattered across the hills and a couple of new developments being built (although sit empty), the devastation that hit this friendly and witty community is all too evident.

I need to pick up some Benny Hedgehogs and some real coffee, so we stop at one of the co-op grocery stores. It´s just before 5pm and a bleary-eyed elderly drunk rolls up to me by the counter.
“Me? I´m drunk!!!” he shouts in my ear as he stumbles through the aisle carrying a six pack of extra strong. There is nothing else to do, but to congratulate him. The young cashier persistently asks him politely to join the queue behind the line. Outside the supermarket I note a several other male villagers in the square drinking lager or cider. I guess it´s Friday, but it does seem a tad early.

Jen has lived in the village of Stanley Crooke in a small terraced house for about 15 years. The views from her back windows are superb. Indeed i´ve asked her for first refusal on the place, although I don´t think she takes me seriously.

View from Back

The surrounding villages include Billy Tow, Sunniside, Wearside and Stanhope each offering their own unique rural charm. The surrounding countryside is both beautiful and desolate, making up part of the Pennine Way.

Jen is a country ranger for Durham County Council – not dissimilar to Ranger Smith, the park ranger in Yogi Bear. My arrival ties in with a field trip to one of her sites for a butterfly census. It´s great if not very scientific. We recognise many, but not all the species. The population looks healthy and there is plenty of diversity – part of Jen´s remit.

We spend the first full day zooming through the countryside in the rain. Jen is famed for very fast driving down small country lanes. We head up to Alston, the highest market town in England to connect with the steam train on the South Tynedale- Isak, Jen´s two and a half year old, is a transport nut and enjoys the short return journey to Kirkhaugh. Not too dissimilar to my recent Darjeeling experience - wet and small guage steamy!

The train in action can be viewed here.

Some running commentary and whistle can be viewed here.

After another delicious dinner, Rich, Jen´s partner, offers me a brief tour to visit two local traditional pubs. I ask Rich to order for he possesses a strong Northern (although not local) accent. Rich is an environmental health and food inspector which provided a bit of confrontation in another favourite.

The first is okay; it´s busy, old looking and a crowd of regulars are lined up at the bar. The second is the real deal – wooden floorboards, dominoes in a corner, a coal fire burning and elderly locals who gaze at the arrival of strangers.

Whilst supping a succulent half Golden Sheep top, the landlord brings out late night shepherd´s pie and egg sandwiches – a Friday hand-out to the locals. A very nice touch!

Rich explains the nature of his work and the ins and outs of his work. He says he would have to be “completely mind-fucked” to ever buy a doner kebab. Tiny meat content, obscenely high fat content, vast quantities of preservatives and unhygienic methods of preparation. He is also not very encouraging about Chinese take-aways, but fortunately they are cooked in white-hot woks which pretty much kills everything off. Nothing he tells me can deter my love for my local Chinese restaurant whilst in UK. After four halfs it is time to leave. We stagger back through the dark country lanes in the rain and the wind that never dies.

My three hosts offer to drive me up the surrounding coastlines. It´s still raining as we head of up to Newbiggin, stopping at the delightful Morpeth for coffee and a cheese shop.

The British artist and sculptor, Sean Henry has produced a huge statue Couples which sits in the middle of the cove. An amazing structure, it manages to dominate the entire town. St Bartholemew´s church dominates the northern end of the sandy beach, part of which dates from the 13th century. We enjoy a fish and chip lunch and the sun finally breaks out. After a few more photos, we head on down the coast-line through Whitley Bay to Tynemouth with it´s old priory and dramatic lighthouse.

Couples by Sean Henry

Lighthouse at Tynemouth

A few more snaps can be viewed by clicking here.

My last night in the North East was a visit to the culmination of this annual event which offer workshops in traditional Irish music. Lots were on offer including an excellent rendition from a button accordian – a wonderful medieval sound, flute and ensembles at a concert at the modernist Gala theatre in the beautiful city of Durham.

I´ve tried to put on a few video clips for your perusal.

Click here
to listen to the button accordian.

For a guitar and whistle duet click here.

For the complete ensemble, click here.

Dr Gloves spent his undergrad. years here about 25 years ago, and the place has changed little, retaining is character and charm, all to rare in British cities.

Bruno (with The Parents)

My parents love me. I know because they insisted on taking me to the cinema to watch the latest offering from Sacha Baron Cohen – Bruno to try and cheer me up.

Those unfamiliar with this talented if warped British comedian has enjoyed previous incarnations as Borat (a mock Kazakhstan journalist) and Ali G (a white black guy).

Bruno is a gay Austrian fashionista whose journey to find stardom leads him to seek peace in the middle-east, attempt to get kidnapped by Hamas – (referred to as humus throughout), and swap an i-pod for an African baby.

This is definitely not a movie that should be attended with one´s parents. It is desperately funny and on several occasions far too close to the knuckle.

Baron-Cohen attended the exclusive public (private) school Haberdashers. My Main Man Graeme was also an attendee of this bastion of snobbery and high academic standards, and despite being peers, G remembers jack shit of the Hollywood star. I hope his parents are proud of his accomplishments.

Ma (who is getting more eccentric and liberated by the year) laughs out loud throughout this roller-coaster of a film, and although Pa was close to walking out after Bruno dangles his meat and two veg in front of the camera, he can´t help but embarrassingly try to cover his chortles as the film progresses.

Aub´s One Line Review : Despite its more base moments, you gotta love it! Just don´t go with your parents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


How pointless is it to hit a tiny ball with sticks for up to 483 yards to try and get it in a hole?

Yet golf is so cool! It´s a great way to spend quality time with a companion or three surrounded by greenery. I spent a considerable time on golf courses during my four week visit to England.

I´m really a hacker who usually only gets to play a couple of times a year. My last golfing experience was in Pokhara, Nepal back in December - which has to be one of the most scenic courses in the World.

One way to considerably your game is to purchase top quality golf clubs. Pa was happy to lend me his king of all clubs – a Ping 13.5 wood. This is a highly forgiving club – it must be for I´m driving 230 + yards and as straight as Tiger Woods. I love it!

Pa is a member of the exclusive Sandy Lodge golf course. Although there is a respectable mix of races, it´s pretty snobby stuff. Complete golfing etiquette is expected, and full dress code is required including having one´s shirt tucked into trousers. How I managed to get away with black jeans i´m not quite sure, but I did on all five visits.

Success was had with my two UK-based blood brothers with Pa – a regular player since his retirement - giving us a much needed two strokes per hole. With a back nine on 49 I wiped the floor with them all, with the highlight being a birdie on hole 12 – labelled the most difficult par three in Britain by the much respected Peter Alliss – the James Brown equivalent of golf commentators. It´s these outrageous moments that I love golf and know i´m hooked for life.

I shared Callum´s full set of Pings and it clearly proved that you can drop at least 10 shots per round by having a quality set of clubs.

Many thanks to the following golfing partners
Giant Ginger Callum - who taught me what I haven´t been doing for a year on Facebook
Boy – who trounced me in Southwood with a 6.30am tee-off on a Sunday
Graeme - introduction to Bushey Heath golf club
SRN - who tamed Tricky Ricky on two occasions
Pa – who treated me to several hacks on a real class course for some father/son bonding sessions.

Click here to see my five wood drive at the 18th tee Sandy Lodge.

Back in McLeod Ganj

Despite the monsoon, this evening was clear. I took this shot with my 300mm lens from the balcony

Although my Summer was an excellent mix of work and pleasure back in England, it is great to be back in McLeod Ganj - despite the mildew growing on the bed, and lack of mobile telephone and reliable Internet connection

It´s also cool, wet and delightful. Unfortunately for the second summer in a row, the weather was predominantly cold, wet and/ or overcast.

For those following on Twitter, my next few postings will be about some of the odds and ends I enjoyed back in the UK, before returning to life back in India.

My body-bag of a case was jam packed with my research stuff and a wide variety of goodies purchased at Waitrose supermarket in Northwood, including eight packets of coffee (six of which are Colombian, 1.5 kilos of cheese, matzoh meal (for the manufacturing of schnitzels, pickles, English mustard and high quality of mayonnaise.

Meanwhile, once again LJ has found an excellent overview of the politics of McLeod Ganj. Click here to read.

Editor notes new photos of London are going up here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doggy Mad

My youngest brother and sister-in-law have followed my Mum’s predilection for Shetland sheep-dogs. Marley was purchased from pedigree stock about 2 years ago, and is very much their surrogate child. He is a most pampered pooch with a choice of baskets, his own doggie seat and belt for the car, and more toys than Hamley’s.

Marley is undoubtedly a very handsome sheltie – an expensive thoroughbred, although, much to my bro’s disappointment, Marley is too small for studding out. Too bad as it is an extremely lucrative industry.

Nonetheless, Marley has more qualifications than Boy himself, with awards for both discipline and agility. Marley attends agility classes every Friday evening and Boy invited me last week.

The class is made up of predominantly middle aged eccentrics (almost all divorced women), and the teacher is a strict disciplinarian. She is clearly a woman with a mission who seems to spend more of her time training the owners than the dog. Heaven help you if a mistake is made.

A classic evening out!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Footballers Behaving Badly

I have to confess to a love of football – the real kind, not that barstardisation of rugby developed by Americans.

My passion is shared by millions, not just in UK but world-wide. Many of these avid armchair fans would agree that the most exciting is that of the premier league in England and it is a multi-million pound industry.

Top football players can earn in excess of GBP80,000 a week – more than the average teacher or social worker will earn in a three year period. Now there is no doubt that these players are very gifted and talented in their field (no pun intended), yet one can’t help that such wages might not really be justifiable.

Of course these young men are not known for having much education; more often than not signing on for professional contracts at sixteen, and an intelligent footballer is like finding a washed up whale in The Thames – extremely rare!

Football players are also not immune to a bit of thuggery. Take the case of Steven Gerrard who was up in court last month for assault having attacked a barman after celebrating a 5 – 1 victory against Newcastle where he netted two of the goals.

Now Stevie G as he is affectionally known is both the Liverpool captain and a regular English international player. He is particularly loved on the Merseyside city as he is one of just two regular players that hale from Liverpool.

Now despite a request from Gerrard, the barman refused to change the music – “no” being a word he is not used to hearing being uttered on his “home patch.” An argument soon ensued and Stevie G was clearly caught on CCTV cameras throwing three swift punches to the barman's head leading to a broken tooth and four stitches to the man’s head.

Gerrard pleaded not guilty in the Liverpool court and claimed that he had to get his punches in first before he was attacked. An interesting defence! Even more interestingly, but maybe not surprisingly, Gerrard received a not guilty verdict. Hoorah for the British justice system!

Of course it’s not just English footballers who like to behave badly. The brilliant Four Four Two football magazine ran a story in it September edition about the gifted, but volatile Mao Jingquing who plays for Shanghai Shenua Newcastle.

Mao first ran into trouble as a youth player after kicking a fan and attacked the referee. After he broke into the first team he was quickly demoted after drunkenly kicking in the door of his manager’s car. Eager-to-please apprentices were caught smuggling in beer to the dressing room. After Shanghai narrowly missed out on the Chinese title, Mao kicked punched and ash-trayed a diner who was looking at one of his female companions. He was released from police custody after issuing a public apology.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Boycott Britain

Today The Times newspaper reports that Russian health officails are urging a boycott of Britain due to the Swine Fever outbreak.

With 11,912 confirmed cases of H1N1 (Swine Fever sounds so much cooler!)Britain is becoming a hotbed of the potentially lethal disease.

Top bod Gennadi Onishenko claims Britain has been completely irresponsible in failing to contain the pandemic.

Sounds about right then!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An English Suburban Garden

My parents moved to their current house when I was three months old. It is in the heart of suburbia in a “well-to-do” area towards the end of the Metropolitan line on the London Underground network. Indeed the garden backs directly on to the train track and offers disturbances every few minutes.

Being brought up in the house, even now, I never notice the sound pollution, but visitors to the place cannot understand how my parents can live is such an abode. Much of it is due to their beautiful garden.

A few pictures can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another Missed Photographic Opportunity

Ching Ching's Hangzhou eclipse photo

It is always great to catch up with family and friends, but i do miss my Dharamsala bedsit.

I know that my visa expired and I had to depart India to apply for a new visa, not to mention furthering my Masters studies in UK. However, i have missed out on a couple of classic photographic opportunities.

The solar eclipse in July was always going to be amazing. I witnessed a partial eclipse back in 2003 which was incredible in itself. The scenes in Varanasi shown on BBC World looked stunning, if somewhat dangerous. My Hong Kong movie bud Ching Ching headed off to Hangzhou for this event.

With the delaying of the monsoons in India has led to some rather amazing scenes in Bihar, one of the poorest Indian states.

Farmers have asked their unmarried daughters to plough parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on last week.
Witnesses said the naked girls ploughed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the ploughs.

"They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains," Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar's remote Banke Bazaar town.

"This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily."

India has suffered its worst start to the vital monsoon rains in eight decades, causing drought in some states.

Another classic photographic opportunity goes begging.