Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - Tanzania

Buena Onda Setakerp recently travelled through Tanzania with my Hong Kong bud, fellow dromomaniac and wild psychonaught Sniffy.

Some of his photos are seriously beautiful, and I have been forced to steal a couple of them. Mr Setakerp uses a Nikon D80 to capture his cool compositions.

Dr Gloves is keen to visit Zanzibar and if we can time it right, we might try to meet up in Zanzibar over Christmas or Chinese New Year.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tate Britain and the National Gallery

Out and about in London today with culture vulture Airways, we hit some more of London´s galleries.

First stop is Tate Britain situated on the South Bank where they are running two great exhibitions at the moment.

The Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) retrospective is simply outstanding, running the gamete from the 1920s – 1960s. Using a variety of predominantly British stones and woods for his sculptures it maps out his early influences of African tribal stuff to more esoteric and avant guarde modern sculptures and gives a glimpse of Moore´s prolific output. The exhibition also includes a series of mixed media sketches of miners and London Underground stations during World War 2 which were used as air-raid shelters. These works are superb if really dark.

dark wartime sketch

The second exhibition we see at Tate Britain is by Turner winning artist Chris Ofili who made his name by incorporating elephant dung into his compositions. The novelty wears a bit thin, but he has moved on from his elephant shit days and his use of colour and shape reflect a more positive and uplifting nuance to his compositions. This exhibition runs to the 16th May.

elephant shit was a feature in Ofili´s earlier compositions

a happier Ofili?

You can get a discount on visiting both these special exhibitions GBP16 or 2 pounds off with a student discount. No photography is allowed without a press pass and i got busted by security on three separate occasions.

Our next stop takes us to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square with 800 years of Western European Art History. With a background in Art History Airways knows her stuff and is able to offer valuable insights into many of the pictures. Entry is free and Fridays are late night openings till 9pm.

The National Gallery

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sex Addicts or Just Naughty Boys?

Tiger Woods´ press conference last week was nothing short of an embarrassing charade and carefully scripted PR exercise aimed at halting the lucrative sponsorship money fast disappearing from his bank account. He apologises to one and all, but the only person he really needs to offer apologies to is his much-humiliated wife.

Chelsea and England captain John Terry who was also recently caught out playing “away from home” was immediately stripped of the England captaincy by strict disciplinarian Italian England manager Fabio Capello. Not a good or nice idea to shag your best mate´s partner.

Meanwhile, Chelsea and England team-mate Ashley Cole linked with five women is the only one of the three who has lost his wife I can´t say i´m a Girls Aloud fan, but complete respect to Cheryl for not wanting to suffer such public humiliation.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Moon´s a Balloon - David Niven

Having recently visited the late David Niven´s Cote d´Azur mansion, Pa ordered a copy of the Man´s autobiography - The Moon´s a Balloon, from the local library. Released in 1971 it has sold more than 5 million copies.

It is a very frank and honest account of his life. He openly shares his somewhat blessed life with great candidness, including his love affair from the age of fourteen with a London prostitute, his expulsion from school for sending the school nurse a decorative parcel of shit, and his house-sharing experience with Clark Gable, where months were spent smoking and eating marijuana with plenty of shagging – even with that pencil moustache!

Niven seems to always land on his feet and almost stumbles into his acting career after serving in the army and working as a liquor seller in New York and continually hob-nobs with the rich, famous and influential. No doubt about it – Mr. Niven you were a very lucky bastard.

Niven´s pink mansion just outside Monte Carlo

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Drying Meat in Hastings

Jackie is one of my oldest friends and we go back some 25 years where we shared a couple of digs together in Bristol during my undergrad years. A vegetarian for many years i was converted me for more than 7 years. She has been with Dave for 20 years now, and i love him to pieces. He is full of quality stories and is always excellent company.

Dave is from Finland and is very much a meat-eater. He has turned both their shared kitchen and garden in Hastings into a meat factory. He started making his own sausages, but his piece de resistance is his cold-dried salted leg of pork. He has never done this before and researched techniques on The Internet.

Keep up with Dave´s adventures by following him on Twitter.

Dave´s Sausage Machinery

salting the pork

drying the meat in a Hastings´ Garden - protected from badgers and birds

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Medication Time

I´ve never been so healthy in my life. So why have I had to make five trips to the Doctors´ Surgery since January?

I have had to endure re-registering at the family´s Doctor after they mislaid my medical records more than 25 years ago. I would have thought they would have welcomed me back with open arms! Clearly this is not the case, and I have had to follow some stringent procedures, in the first instance with the Head Registrar and then the Nurse, being weighed, measured (strangely i continue to grow taller), prodded, poked, blood pressure taken and providing urine samples. A perfect specimen of healthy man apparently!

Having now jumped through the variety of hoops, my first load of injections begins on Thursday, which is the reason why I needed to re-register in the first place. They include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, diphtheria, typhoid, yellow fever, measles, mumps, rubella and polio and boosters for tetanus. Fortunately i have the young and very attractive Nurse Carol to administer this barrage of dosages - and i certainly don´t want to be crying in front of her.

My ass will become the ultimate pin cushion and the side-effects should be interesting to say the least.

Editor´s Addition: Nurse Carol is neither young or attractive. However she is quite sweet and offers me two stickers for "being brave". I turned these down, but did request a lollipop instead. She doesn´t oblige.

We are sticking to arms rather than ass for now, with Hep. B delivered in my left arm and rabies (1) in my right.

Fortunately i know my Guardian Angel is with me, possesses a hot nurse´s uniform and promises me TLC.

Back again next week for round two of three sessions.

Monday, February 22, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - Bogotá

Bogotá was my home between 2004 - 2008. Despite the infamous reputation of both the city and Colombia as a country, i love it very much.

"Ants," a work by Colombian artist Rafael Gomez Barros, covers the National Congress in Bogota. Barros said the ants symbolize the people displaced by the continuing armed conflict in Colombia.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Great Auntie Claire

Great Auntie Claire

It has been a somewhat difficult week with the visit of Auntie F. but we drop her back in her hometown of Birmingham and have the opportunity to meet up with my Great Auntie Claire, my maternal Grandfather´s 87 year old sister, a woman who I haven´t met up with in more than 24 years.

Fortunate to enjoy very positive relationships with all four of my Grandparents, Grandpa Hamburger was the last one left, and died just over two years ago. Although very much a Victorian father who was harsh with his kids, he mellowed considerably with age, and we enjoyed a very warm and loving relationship. Spending World War 2 in India as a sergeant major, he was based just outside of Delhi where his company spied on the Japanese war efforts. He describes this time as the “best of his life”. Although I could never persuade him into returning to the Indian subcontinent, I put together a short documentary movie in 2004 as I journey up to his old army base.

Aubs with Grandpa H

He was a real character and I have missed him a lot since his death. Nonetheless, he lives on through his sister. Not only does she sound like him with a thick Birmingham accent, but she drinks whisky like a trooper, smokes, talks on similar topics, is down to earth and straight-forward, and even physically resembles him. Close your eyes and she is he.

Great Auntie Claire is alert and spends most days taking meals to “elderly” people. She follows a rigorous 20 minute keep fit regime and spends two hours every night reading a "good" book before bed-time.

She talks politics at lunch today and is completely scathing of the war in Afghanistan. She is completely awesome.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Paying Above the Odds

As we all prepare for the World Cup in South Africa, not surprisingly those in attendance will be looking at paying well above the odds. Drats!

England fans who go to the World Cup in South Africa could be forced to pay a 30 per cent surcharge for hotel rooms.

Supporters who book accommodation with a FIFA backed agency will be charged commission - an average £12 per night - on top of the room price.

Match Event Services, part-owned by a British firm based in Manchester, is expected to blockbook 55,000 hotel rooms for the tournament next June. That is more than 80 per cent of South Africa's available rooms, so fans will have little choice but to pay hiked prices - sparking fury from politicians, supporters' groups and travel agents.

The commission added to the standard hotel rates is likely to bump up the cost of a night in an average hotel by £12, from £38 to £50. It is thought England's army of 20,000 fans - the biggest following of any country - will attend for an average 10 nights each.

Liberal Democrat shadow culture, media and sport secretary Don Foster said: "A mark-up of 30 per cent is huge. It can't possibly be right.Fans have to rely on agents with block bookings as they have the contracts but they will feel ripped off and rightly so."

Football Supporters' Federation's Director of International Affairs Kevin Miles said: "For FIFA's own accommodation agency to take an extra 30 per cent of costs is quite simply ripping off fans."

A fifa spokesman said: "It is standard industry practice for hotels to be subject to commissions for an agent." He said Match Event Services - which paid FIFA £60million for the exclusive rights to provide corporate hospitality at the tournament - was run on a break-even basis.

A Match Event Services spokesman said the margins were "not unusual" and cash made would pay other costs for staging the tournament.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Opportunities Knock

Strange shit happens. Opportunities arrive out of the blue and sometimes I just get a calling.

So I am a qualified school inspector for both Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and I have been short-listed to inspect an IB school in the Dominican Republic for mid-April. I´m meant to be in Namibia then and I was going to turn it down. Indeed, i turned down the previous inspection in invitation for Mexico and have actually only completed 1 inspection in Rio back in 2006.

They are full on, with early starts, non-existent lunch breaks and work continues well into night. In Rio I observed more than 30 classes, chaired a group on PE, and worked on three other subcommittees resulting in a 140 page report in a five day period. Nonetheless it does give great insights into international schools and teaching as well as excellent networking opportunities with other international school managers and teachers across the globe. Flights and very comfortable accommodation and food are provided.

What the hell – it´s next to Haiti and Bolty gives me a project and organization to go through as well. As if I needed any further incentive to complete this f***ing thesis! The end is finally in sight as I prepare the paper for final submission - Coleridge’s proverbial albatross. The quicker I finish, the faster i´ll be out of here.

Ever the sage, Dr Gloves reminds me that I have a potential lifetime to travel the Dark Continent. It doesn´t matter whether I start my African adventures in March, April or May.

New Plan of Action – Aim for mid March in Port Au Prince, Haiti, inspection in Dominican Republic 17th – 25th April and aim for an arrival in Windhoek Namibia by the end of the month. I´m all packed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Like her sister Auntie F. Ma also suffers from OCD. However, like myself, she tries to use this productively. A huge amount of her time is spent in the kitchen with a wide selection of recipe books, and one of her cooking passions is the making of the ultimate chocolate cake.

Inspired by her Israeli sister-in-law she now has a new recipe for the ultimate chocolate cake. Check this one out –if you dare!

7 eggs
400g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier or Cointreau

As you can see, this is not for the feint-hearted

Place the eggs (direct from the fridge is best) into a food-processor or blender for 8 minutes or until light, thick, fluffy and creamy.

fluffy eggs

Break the chocolate up into small pieces and add butter. Place in a bowl and microwave for about 90 - 120 seconds. Then mix it up well.

Once the eggs are fully mixed, fold in about a third of the chocolate/butter mix.
Once fully folded, add the remaining two thirds, again folding it in until there is a consistency of colour. Add in the liquor.

Place the mixture in a large grease-proofed cake tin (23cm)

Bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit) for 40 minutes with a tin of water underneath.

So simple, so easy and so awesome.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Auntie F. Comes Visiting

Auntie F. portrait taken by Jonny my Godson

I believe we all have certain mental difficulties and disorders.

Unfortunately, Auntie F. has had far more than her fair share. Never a confident person and seriously under-performing at school, she endured torrents of abuse and ridicule from her peers throughout her Secondary school years. The cruelty of school children knows no bounds.

Fortunately, she met and married Uncle P. - calm, laid-backed, the patience of an angel, and a sharp, dry sense of humour. How he copes for such long periods of one-to-one with his wife is nothing short of extraordinary. Must be love.

She has seen a wide variety of psychiatrists and psychotherapists over the years, and is heavily medicated with a variety of tablets including lithium. At the moment both manic depression and OCD are clearly present and her facial tics are in abundance.

People do help her out including the social services. F. helps out 2 days a week in her local elementary school as a general volunteer, and particularly enjoys the hugs and company with the kids. She is also studying Mathematics at a local school and she is keen to show me her skills in ratios.

However, even angels need a rest from time to time, and when things get just too much he arranges for Aunt F to have 5 – 7 day stays here with my ma and pa. Auntie F. is on her visit from Birmingham to my parents and indeed at this moment in time, my home.

It´s tough going in her company. She is particularly down and delusional at the moment, and Ma really has to tiptoe on eggshells. I try and pitch in, and spend some one-on-one time, asking her observations as a school assistant, showing her photos and making her awesome avocado toasted sandwiches and scrambled egg breakfasts when ma has had sleep-ins.

I share the same bathroom as Auntie F. who suffers from both Irritable Bowel Syndrome and piles, not to mention her OCD ensures each visit can last up to two hours. Roll on the weekend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - The Bahamas

Colombians have to be some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Having been blessed to get to know many in my four year stint in Bogotá I am still in contact with many through Facebook.

Lucia was the art teacher at the international school where I worked, and she inherited my Nikon F90 and analogue lenses when I turned digital in 2006. She has gone on to enjoy a successful photographic career in Colombia, New York and London. You can check out her photographic blog by clicking on here.

I have stolen this shot from her shoot in the Bahamas.

Ma´s biggest fear of my African adventures is that I will contract AIDS. I tell her I am going there to travel and experience, not to shag lots of women, but nonetheless there is nothing I can say that will alleviate her irrational fears.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Real Van Gogh

Airways and myself continue our cultural and artistic exploration of London.

We head across to Green Park for a visit to the Royal Academy of Art where there is currently The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and his Letters running until 18th April.

Queues look long, so we head to the free galleries on the top floor. There is a lot of contemporary crap, with a few choice pieces scattered in the mire.

Airways capturing one of the more interesting compositions

Not satiated we then queue for 40 odd minutes to get into the Van Gogh exhibition.

Adults are charged GBP12 with GBP4 reduction for those lucky enough to possess a student card. This is really a quality exhibition.The paintings include a few favourites, but many I have never seen before, in reality or in books. There are several incredible studies in ink, pen, pencil, and some with the subtlest addition of water-colour pieces that are simply outstanding for both line and perspective, even in monochrome.

Most fascinating for me however is his letters. These are predominantly written to his younger brother and patron Theo and are in both French and Flemish. Fortunately Airways is a Quebecois and translates them in full for me. Clearly obsessed in colour and his artistic techniques, the written words themselves don´t reveal any huge insights. However, they are accompanied by some tiny, but magical sketches of his major paintings with incredible minaturesque detail that is simply stunning, and, in many cases, looking better than the finished paintings themselves. Click here to check a selection of his letters out at this website.

Whilst an incredible collection of stuff has been brought in, the crowds are too much. Weekends are clearly not a sensible time to visit.

Photography is meant to be strictly prohibited in the Van Gogh exhibition.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Broken Britain

Clearly it is not just me that runs down the UK.

Following a Populus poll published in The Times Newspaper, 70% of British residents agree that the UK is “broken”. An incredible 43% of those surveyed said they would emigrate if they could. Maybe only Haiti and Sierra Leone could probably boast such a high figure.

23% of the British children´s population lives in poverty, rising to 27% (650,000 kids) in London, with 300,000 of these kids living in “severe” poverty.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - Penis Collection

My fellow dromomaniac Bolty found this interesting chappy in Laos.

This tribal guy boasts 50 penises on his belt. Now that is some collection indeed.

Which one is your favourite?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Multilingualism and Yiddish

Using my BS mastery, in my dissertation I argue that we are all multilingual. Whether it is for my French exam at 16, thanking my Hong Kong cab-driver in Cantonese, or sending basic Spanish messages to Colombian friends, even though I have barely mastered English, I am multilingual.

Since returning to the parental home, I reacquaint myself with Yiddish – a High German language of Ashkenazi origin. More can be found at Wikipedia.

It sounds somewhat harsh, but I like its onomatopoeic qualities, and meanings can be interpreted just from its mere sound.

The Late great Grannie Hamburger (for real) told me her parents would use Yiddish when they didn´t want her and her siblings to know what they were talking about, but of course they quickly learned to translate.

Boy uses Yiddish sporadically, and even Nic, my lapsed Catholic sister-in-law, bravely has a stab at this somewhat antiquated language.

Ma´s cousin Paula sends this cool website to help beginners in the Yiddish language.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nehru Centre

Based in South Arlington Street, in the heart of the swanky Mayfair area of West London, the Nehru Centre is part of the Indian High Commission. It is holding part of the Himalaya Festival, including the art works which are predominantly contemporary paintings and just a few good quality photos, several of which aren´t labelled and almost half of them taken in Kathmandu only.

The highlight of the evening visit however is the screening of One Crazy Ride, a documentary by Guarav Jani. Jani and a few motorbike enthusiasts make a road-trip around Arunachal Pradesh, a remote Indian province that borders China. Roads are rough at best and sometimes non-existent.

A trained film-maker, Jani single-handedly not only captures the beauty of the region, but introduces the audience to local tribes-people, his fellow riders (in the full range of emotions that they show)and the "craziness" of undertaking such harsh road-trips. Jani is present at the showing and takes questions from the audience at the end of the screening. Both myself and my companion Airways have seriously itchy feet afterwards.

This is Jani´s 2nd documentary, and there is a screening of his first film, Riding Solo To The Top Of The World which tracks his journey through Ladakh, (my most favourite region in India) at the Rich Mix at 7.15pm on Friday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Celebrating a New Passport

After much bemoaning the inefficiencies of life in UK, it is pleasing to note that some things do happen much faster than others.

My new passport application was organised through the Post Office. Forms were filled out and checked for accuracy for a princely sum of GPP8. Within 4 days the new passport has arrived.

This is my first passport from Britain in 18 years, and an application from UK means i am entitled to the “Jumbo” size 48 page passport, not available to those citizens who reside outside the UK.

On top of my GBP8, the new passport has cost me GBP90.50 – expensive yes, but i am nonetheless delighted at its swift arrival and the freedom it offers me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Himalaya Film and Cultural Festival

I´m very grateful to Ellie who points me in the direction of the Himalaya Film and Cultural Festival running from 28 January to 12 February 2010. It celebrates the rich and varied cultures of the world’s mightiest mountain range with film, music, art and photography.

The Himalaya stretch for thousands of miles, encompassing forests, deserts, snowy peaks and vibrant cities, and a huge diversity of peoples and cultures live on their slopes and in their valleys.

Our film programme reflects this diversity with films from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet. Some are classics, others are being shown for the first time in the UK. We also explore the Himalaya through the still image with exhibitions of art and photography from a range of international artists, and taste the music of the region, with live performances from musicians traditional and modern.

The UK is home to one of the biggest Himalayan diaspora communities outside of South Asia, but apart from a few well-known symbols and stories, this important area has a low profile in this country, and remains a mystery to many. Therefore, our central aims in organising the Festival are:
• to reach and captivate a wide audience, introducing them to Himalayan film, music, art and photography.
• to raise awareness and visibility of Himalayan countries and cultures in London and the UK
to celebrate the cultural ties between Himalayan diaspora communities, encouraging solidarity and fostering a sense of the Himalaya as a region
• to create a platform for Himalayan and related artists to showcase their work in London.

Himalaya Festival is not run for profit, and any surplus after costs will be donated to our charity partner, the Rescue Foundation. We hope the Festival will allow as many people as possible to experience the beauty and rich heritage of the Himalaya.

Not much time left to get there, but i can´t resist it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Visit to the British Museum

Ellie is Jen´s elder step-sister and she invites me for cake and drinks at the British Museum for her birthday.

Situated close to Russell Square tube-station, this imposing building offers an eclectic assortment of artefacts pilfered from around the World, most notably the Elgin Marbles stolen from the Greeks.

It has been a very long time since my last visit and it looks even more impressive than i remembered. It boasts artefacts covering close to 2 million years. It is somewhat of a labyrinth to negotiate around and unless you give it a complete day of exploration, you are better to just focus on your specific interests.

There is currently an interesting exhibition of West African sculptures on display.

a cool African artefact

The museum is open daily between 10am – 5.30pm with late evenings on Thursdays and Fridays.

Like all the major museums and galleries, entry is free, although begging bowls litter almost every gallery room.

Check out their website by clicking here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Applications on Facebook

After marmalade-making with Ma, it´s time for some quality Pa bonding moments - and i can´t think of better way to do this than on the golf-course. Pa´s somewhat exclusive golf club is just up the road, and despite the still somewhat inclement weather, we brave it for a few holes.

Pa asks me to give him an "idiot´s guide" to compare blogging, tweeting and Facebook. He struggles with anything electronic at the best of times , let alone IT. I make my explanation as basic as one can possibly make it. Pa likes to write letters, but unfortunately his handwriting looks like a rheumatic one-eyed doctor´s.

I love Facebook. It´s a great way to keep in contact with people i love scattered on six continents. I was always crap at remembering peoples birthdays, but FB saves the day and forces me at least to write to distant friends at least once a year.

Pa´s siblings, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces around the world are pretty much all on Facebook. I sing it´s praises, but Pa just isn´t going to bite.

Facebook can be highly addictive; hell! Mafia Wars - i must have been playing too much to have risen to level 288.

I am rarely inspired to check out most of the stuff on there, but Yin persuades me to take a Birth Date test which she claims is highly accurate.

Aubrey was born on a Wednesday 25th January 1967.
Adventurous. Great sense of humor. Altruistic. Loves to enjoy life. Caring and loving. Faithful friend. Confident personality. Quite sensitive. Warm and considerate towards people.

It´s certainly not 100% accurate, but the flavours are a fairly accurate representation. Now , how did they do that?

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Whale of a Time

A huge whale and large fish fan, check out these incredible close encounters.

Whale Shark - despite several attempts following their migratory paths i have failed to see one of these 16 metre monsters. I am guaranteed to finally see one of these beasties in Mozambique

a close encounter with a sperm whale

this beautiful beluga was shot in Arctic waters

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First World Prices In A Third World Country

Whilst in England, i have been commuting around on public transport, predominantly the London Underground and London buses. Whilst never very good, this year seems particularly atrocious. And this has had nothing to do with the inclement weather.

London Underground train lines close sporadically blocking several routes, especially over the weekend and a journey to the heart of the West End which should take 35 minutes on a clear run can take close to 2 hours. Some destinations become totally unreachable at times despite supposed services on several train lines. Trying to make the 12 mile journey on the 249 bus from Hackney to Tottenham took 4 cancelled buses, a broken down bus, an hour wait, resulting in the necessity to catch the outrageously expensive London cabs. I wouldn´t mind so much if the public transport charges were reasonable, but prices are nothing short of extortionate. I´m paying First World prices for Third World facilities.

It is easier and much cheaper to negotiate journeys around Delhi. Take the Metro in Hong Kong (all constructed in England) and the experience is incomparable. Clean, fast and efficient you will never wait for more than 4 minutes between trains, night or day.

Nygate, ever the patriot explains the situation to me on two counts.
1) London has the oldest Underground system in the World, so it is outdated. Well i´m sorry my friend but you have had 150+ years to develop it
2) The election for the position of Lord Mayor is up for grabs next year, and the current Mayor is desperate to get it sorted within the year in the hope he can get re-elected. Too little, too late Mr Johnson

With the Olympic Games due in 2012, London is in danger of being shown up to world humiliation and ridicule.