Your wheels will set you free


Just over a week to my next birthday, when I make half a century plus 10%, and I was talking with my brother about what I would do to celebrate. I couldn’t give a good answer as I haven’t really decided. It is on a Friday and it is not a day made for celebrating as I am up around 6 the next day to work 5 hours starting at 8.

I was out on my bike later in the day and  it got me thinking whether I had received many better birthday presents. It is not an extensively researched list, I have forgotten many birthdays and their presents so apologies to friends and family if you bought me the best ever present and I have forgotten it, but certainly in the recent past I cannot think of any that are better than a bike in the constant positive benefit it has brought to my life.


The alley I lived in when I was known as $2, not much but better than 50 cents!

Before I lived in a more solidly Khmer area. To travel around I would hop on the back of a motto* and pay to go where I wanted. My most frequent journey was to work for which I paid $2 and led, I have been told, to my nickname in the alley where I lived ‘bi dollars’ – $2 in Khmer. They might have carried on taking the piss out of me as $2 after I got the bike but I do not know!

4th March 2017, a few days before the actual day, and we went to a bike street in Phnom Penh to look for a bike. One street with shop after shop selling bikes and little else.


Street 107 – where to buy a bike in Phnom Penh

I was looking for a street bike, nothing fancy, preferably white with black trim. One was found but the saddle was too low so an extension was added and the same happened with the handle-bars. A quick test ride and the bike was bought and given to me.  We went off and cycled to a bar I had recently been to, to welcome back a friend just returned to Phnom Penh, but we would not normally have gone to together as it would have involved planning, getting a tuk-tuk, etc. Having a bike had already improved my life.

Subsequently I learned the joys of cycling in Phnom Penh, to work or for pleasure. When

Photo 3-4-17, 4 59 28 PM

New bikes parked at Show Box

I talk about it people ask me about the danger of the traffic in Phnom Penh. Yet, for me, it is the safest city I have cycled in. In the UK, France or Australia the traffic is all so orderly and managed that it goes so fast. As a cyclist it can be quite frightening. However the traffic here is chaos. A vehicle or motto can come at you in any direction at any time. As a result the cars, coaches and lorries drive slowly. All the road users are looking out for everyone else. It is chaos, but it is an elegant chaos.

So I started to save my $2 a journey to work – $24 a week, nearly $100 a month! I have also improved my fitness. Phnom Penh is a city you cannot walk around easily, with


The bike as it is now, with added rear light and mudguards – for the rainy season.

relatively cheap and easy to get mottos and tuk-tuks, the lack of pavements, and the temperature hardly anyone walks anywhere. As an example, the summer before coming here I was physically active for more than an hour and a half a day whereas, even with the walking around at work, it was less than 30 minutes a day. Together with the cheap beer it resulted in my weight going from 85ish kilos to almost 100, despite my attempts at swimming. I am active for more than 70 minutes most days now and my weight, despite the cheap beer, is now reducing again.

On a bike you can see things you do not see in a tuk-tuk, especially the new Indian ones or even on the back of a motto. I have witnessed more about daily life in Phnom Penh from my saddle than I would have otherwise.

Not everything is perfect. In the rainy season I would get a mud trail up my back and had


New brake blocks being fitted.

to fit mudguards which detracted from the clean, lean, lines of the machine. Too many people I know have had their bikes stolen so it is necessary to lock it up and keep it visible. Some places where people park their mottos, which have security watching over them, will not accept bikes as they are not thought to be serious. I have always lived on the 2nd floor so it is either a case of paying a few dollars a week for parking or carrying it upstairs, however, as a friend commented, it is useful upper-body exercise too! Finally, the way I ride puts pressure on the brakes and handle-bars. The later had recently become lose but a nearby garage tightened them up for free. More worryingly I seem to get through a set of brake-blocks a month. I accelerate fast from junctions, to get through them quickly before I can get hit by something coming from another direction, which also calls for sharp breaking. This wears the brakes. And this has been costing me around $6 a month for new brakes. This week they had got bad again and I had to use my feet to stop a couple of times so, on my day off, back to bike street for new


The new, expensive brake blocks!

brakes. These cost $10 and I was assured they were better than the cheap brakes I had before.

So, despite the caveats mentioned in the last paragraph, I still value the bike for the freedom it has bought me to go where I want, when I want. My main regret is that I have not used it to visit places further away in Phnom Penh. It has extended the area of places I regularly go, but I have not managed to do things like join Phnom Penh Easy Riders for a visit out of the city, or the Hash on one of their rides. So I’m richer, fitter and have witnessed more of life in Phnom Penh than I otherwise would have. All from the saddle of ‘My White Bicycle.’

Let’s play the blame game.


Good read. I like the perspective.


As Raheem Sterling tucked away Manchester City’s 6th goal during Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup final victory over Watford, the BT Sport cameras cut to the ‘celebrations’ of manager Pep Guardiola. In fact, this celebration has become a bit of a Pep trademark. Slumped forward on the bench, scratching his head and covering his face.

Sterling Sterling scores the 6th goal of the game.

Guardiola looked embarrassed at his team’s onslaught of the opposition, almost like an apologetic dad as his son’s side destroy the team in the league made up of the kids looking to make new friends through sport. These are probably the only times Pep actually wishes to emulate the approach of others, this approach being the Sunday League way of reducing humiliation for opposition by subbing off your best players and putting on your worst.

If he could, Guardiola would’ve brought on 3 of the coaching staff to…

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Manchester football – know your history


A brilliant post about the history of two Manchester clubs. Thanks Steve for writing this. I would just add that FFP also included provisions against clubs having too much debt, but that got removed, as for many it is their buiness model. But then FFP is fair and transparent……

Steve Heald

As a Manchester City fan I get quite exasperated to hear the current accusations thrown at the club by United fans which are buried in a fog of misinformation, laziness to read up on the clubs history, or a belief of the United gloryhunter element of support that United are greater purely on what has happened on the pitch in the Premier League era.

I’ll start by saying as a long term (now departed) resident of Greater Manchester (not Stockport!) I am old enough to remember the days when I would be on the Kippax one Saturday afternoon and then the following week with my red mates on the Stretford End, secretly willing on the opposition to victory of course.  I have many United supporting friends and family and we exist with a back and forth dialogue of wind ups and mickey takes.  I respect where United are in the…

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Wild Honey – the bees


What is wild honey, how is it collected, who collects it, what is special about it? All these questions were in my mind when a friend with family in Ratnikiri talked about having it when visiting family in the province recently. I was keen to find out more, and particularly to try it.

Then, up popped an advert on facebook from self-described health food restaurant, Farm to Table, together with NGO Non-Timber Forest Products, for a wild honey talk and tasting session on Saturday afternoon, 21 July 2018. I  moved from clicking on interested in the facebook events to paying my $12 on the ticket website. Just as well I did as the event sold out.

After a welcome from Brittany, the owner of Farm to Table, there was a talk from the country Coordinator of the NGO, Mr Keo Tai. He introduced his NGO and then NatureWild, a social enterprise which promotes enterprises in Cambodia working to promote the sustainable management of Cambodia’s forests, including the promotion of Khmum Prey, the wild honey.

Mr Tai talked about the four different bees in Cambodia, in particular the big bee, Apis Dorsata pictured in the book he is pointing to.  He told us that there are over 600 harvesters of honey, mostly from indigenous communities of Cambodia and that the bees are mostly in the Koh Kong area of Cambodia, on the coast near the border with Thailand, living in the Mangrove swamps but they move to the north east of Cambodia in the dry season, March to May. He talked about the different types of bees and I learnt that the queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day for five year, one million eggs! Before the harvesters used a spray to get to the honey but this killed drones and sometimes the queen so they are only allowed to use smoke as part of this scheme. Harvesters take only 80% of the honey so that there is something there to feed the larvae and that within 20 days the nest can be visited for honey again, though that can only happen three times in  a year.

He then went on to talk about the harvesting process. The harvesters take the honeycomb from the forest to the village where it is tested for purity before being passed on to NatureWild who work to take the water content down to around 20%, fitting in with the internationally recognised standard. Some do this through heat in order to do it quicker but that damages the enzymes meaning the quality is reduced and it again does not meet the standards. He said that many other honey producers get it from the honeycomb by squeezing it but that allows impurities into it like larvae and pollen. They get the honey by cutting the two ends off and leaving it to drain for a few hours, which takes longer but results in better honey.

In response to questions, Mr Tai said that 5% of the income goes into funding forestry protection. The elephant in the room being the links, said to go to the top of the government, that have seen a lot of the forest removed and shipped to Vietnam to provide fortunes to the people behind it as well as the phenomenal amount of sand taken from the mangrove swamps in Koh Kong to help Singapour expand its boundaries but, at the same time, damage the Mangrove Swamps in Koh Kong.  I was quite amazed to hear that one tree can have 100 nests on for these bees, so long as they are 1 metre apart, whereas other bees in Cambodia have to have 100 metres between nests. The honey in Cambodia is mostly used for medicine when people have digestive problem or a wound to help repair it. He was asked if it is true that a metal spoon should not be used with honey, but it should be wood. He explained that the vessels used by the organisation are stainless steel as fit in with the international regulations. The biggest threats to bees in Cambodia are deforestation and pesticides. The people in the forests have been running these businesses collecting honey for generations, it is the involvement of the enterprise which has resulted in them doing it in more of a sustainable way. There are 21 groups collecting the honey in the country producing 10 tonnes a year compared with a demand for honey in Cambodia 10 years ago was put at 500 tonnes!

Koh Anloung Chen Island Hike


Up early on Sunday morning and a quick trip on the back of a motto to Independence Monument to meet up with the organisers of the hike and the fellow walkers. I’d found out about it through the facebook group Phnom Penh Hike which promised “Sunday on a beautiful hike, this time to Anloung Chen Island. This little island is an oasis in the Bassac River.” We loaded up the coach and set off for the island.

Anloung Chen Island

Little over an hour later we stopped and walked down to a ferry. While waiting for it to come back across the water I watched a man in the river removing poles and other things from it.

The ferry arriving and then us arriving on the other side of the river. We walked to a temple, which was like pretty much every other temple and then started walking alongside the river. My fellow walkers, from what I could work out were mainly made up of people working for NGOs and International agencies like WHO, or were travelers. We were told it also informally known as Longan Island as the fruit is grown all over it.

2018-07-15 10.33.03

Together with a stop for fruit near the end of the walk, this was most welcome as I had gone without breakfast which was not the cleverest thing to do before walking over 7 kilometres.

On the way to what seemed like the top of the island we passed a giant earth moving machine seemingly gouging a small channel in the dirt road. This didn’t make much sense until on the way back we came across people laying a new concrete road.

Elections are to take place at the end of the month, though with the leading opposition part banned and its leader jailed there seems little point, yet there were people from the governing part out electioneering.  As a politician I knew exactly what they were up to.

2018-07-15 10.45.43

After stopping at the temple for some fruit we walked back to the ferry passing the commune’s boat for the races at Water Festival in November. It can hold up to 30 people in it with someone dancing at the front, we were told.

2018-07-15 11.14.40

After a short walk we were back at the ferry and the entertainment of will they fall off or even get their feet wet as two people tried to get their motos off the ferry.

Back across the river and, whatever the man in the water had been doing it was worth it, as we were able to walk across onto decking rather than clambering up as we’d had to the previous three times. Back on the coach passed a mass rally of another party, with a sun and moon logo, and back to Phnom Penh for a very welcome lunch.

Three bongs on bikes – things left behind, the schedule has gone all Pete Tong.


It used to be a common refrain that I could not go somewhere without leaving things behind. This time was no different but I was not to be the only one.

Around eight we arrived at the bus company and forty minutes later the bus arrived. 20180623_083852Time for the bikes to be put on the bus. It’s a thing in Cambodia. Get out of the city, avoid the traffic and arrive fresh, at lunchtime to visit the planned temple. We had been promised the journey would be three hours and would arrive, at the latest, in Kampong Thom by midday.

The normal Cambodian bus experience of it stopping on a regular basis to let on more


On the right an elephant being attacked by two tigers, I do not know how many of either remain in the province. On the left a memorial to friendship between China and Cambodia. Yet China was the funder and supporter of the Khmer Rouge, who the current government were members of, fought against and opposed China in the UN, yet are now the greatest friends.

people, paying in cash, till they were sitting on tiny stools in the isle, meant we got there an hour later. Still, not the end of the World. We had lunch and checked into our respective hotels.

The plan had been to visit the third temple complex that had gained UNESCO World Heritage status in Cambodia, Sambour Prei Kok. However, I had visited the site in the previous few months, it was a holiday at the end of a term teaching, and I had booked a place with a swimming pool.

So, as my travelling companions went off to the temple complex. I chilled out by the pool, swimming occasionally, so that in four swims I had done 20 lengths of the pool, which I calculated to be 30 metres = 600 metres. It was awful that in the gaps in between 20180623_160049swimming I had to lie in the sun or read my book in the shade. Just what the doctor ordered after a term’s work and with days riding ahead.

The two other bongs arrived back in time to head out for something to eat. During which they said that they had arrived with only 30 minutes until the site closed and had decided not to pay the $10 to go in, had seen things they could and had left before being caught in a rain storm. They had sought shelter 20180623_220538

from the storm in a shack with someone who

had recommended the restaurant we ate in.

We then headed to the the place where they were staying to watch the second half of the Tunisia vs Belgium game in the World Cup and then went on to a night street food stall, in front of the market for a drink. After which we parted.

Things left behind? I realised as we approached Kampong Thom I had left my swimming


Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom.

equipment behind. I had booked a hotel with a pool specifically to be able to swim. Fortunately Kampong Thom Market came to the rescue and I got a pair of swimmers for $2. They were branded Nike, I did not think they were and, they were falling apart after wearing once, I do not think they were.

More importantly one of the bongs behind left important medicine in Phnom Penh. There is no postal service in Cambodia, so how to get it? Fortunately a phone call to the place they were staying meant the place could find it, put it on a bus and get it to us, saving him from having to return to Phnom Penh to retrieve it. Unfortunately, it does not arrive until 11 tomorrow morning so we have to cool our heels in Kampong Thom  till then.

The schedule has gone all Pete Tong? Well obviously spending more time in Kampong Thom than planned has not helped – the aim was to lave at 8 rather than the 11 that now seems likely. At the same time, over the evening meal it was argued by one bong that the schedule for the next day was not realistic and that only one temple could be visited the next day. Rather than the two in the plan. It is something I tell fellow teachers that Generals say no plan survives engagement with the enemy.

Three Bongs on Bikes


The bikes have been hired and the tickets have been bought. Hotels are booked. The Kampong Thom ticketsroad-trip starts here. Or, well when we collect the bikes tomorrow, or maybe when work finishes tomorrow evening or perhaps, even on leaving Phnom Penh on Saturday.

Whenever it starts it does not dim the excitement that once again I’m getting on a bike and heading out into the countryside to see more of Cambodia.

For the first part though we are loading the bikes on a bus to Kampong Thom arriving Saturday lunchtime. We’ll then see the temple at Sambor Prei Kuk, a pre-Ankorian temple complex that recently gained UNESCO World Heritage status.

Route June Juy 2018The next day is temple day. It is a ride to Preah Khan Kampong Svay to see the temple there and, after lunch, it is on to Koh Ker Temple. The theme doesn’t change the next day as it is on to another UNESCO World Heritage site, Preah

Vihear temple, on the border with Thailand.

Then it is the end of temples for a while, moving to Anlong Veng – the last hold out of the Khmer Rouge and the place their leader, Pol Pot died.

Then it is on to Sisophon via another temple at Banteay Chhmar. From Sisophon it is

Five go to the Province

Five go to the province for Khmer New Year. The Bongs on the Bikes are the two left and one right in the picture.

change of mode of transport again as the newly opened western train line runs from Poipet on the Thai border to Pursat, and we hope to join it to ride from Sisophon to Cambodia’s second city, Battambang. A night or two here where we could see, among other delights, a bat cave, Cambodia’s only vineyard, another killing field, a temple, a crocodile farm as well as the delights of the city itself. Whilst there we will undoubtedly catch England’s last group game in the World Cup.

After Battambang it is off to Pursat for Chrak La Eang, a waterfall it is famous for, followed by a night at Kampong Chhnang, merely because I love the sound of its name, before returning to Phnom Penh.

Now you know why we’re excited. So much to do and see.

*Bong is an honorific in Cambodia much like ‘mate’.

Barang on a Motorbike: The Return


Eighteen months ago I hired a motorbike to ride around eastern Cambodia and started to


The jacket is to protect from the sun, not rain, same with the scarf over my mouth.

write about it here. Other things took over and I didn’t finish. Then I discovered I had lost the photos and that was it. Two years ago I hired a bike and joined an organised cycling tour to Oudong. I thought it was time to do something with our day off for International Women’s Day and I mixed the two. I have now also discovered that this year’s project involved something of what I had done the previous two 8th March, but more of that coincidence in a minute.

Amazingly, and I didn’t know this before, but on March 8th 2017 I went to see a film in the Cambodia Film Festival, “Turn Left Turn Right” and I loved it and bought a poster and got

Turn Left Turn Right

The poster I had signed.

it signed by the actress featured in the film, Kanitha Tith. An ancient temple complex features in the early parts of the film. I had wanted to visit a number of temples within reach of Phnom Penh almost since I arrived. Seeing the temple complex in the film made me want to go more. So, I decided, my project for International Women’s Day 2018 would be to go to Phnom Chisor.  Like 2016 a temple complex, which featured in a film I saw on the day in 2017. The project has nothing, ostensibly to do with day, other than we get one day off, just on its own, and I think it is good to do something with it. I had booked the bike the week before, paying a deposit, so all I had to do was turn up and collect it, as agreed, at 10.

So, I left at just after 10 and headed south on National Route 2. It was almost an hour to get through the traffic in Phnom Penh and the suburbs, but at least that was on a dual carriageway road and felt safer. It being eighteen months since I’d ridden a motorbike my gear changing was a bit rusty, I suffered the indignity of stalling in front of the staff of the shop I hired it from. Having to go round the Central Market with all the traffic and stop-starting was a bit of a trial so early on but I’d got gear-changing sorted quite well. I also filled the bike up with fuel and then head on down the Charles De Gaul Boulevard, past the Olympic Stadium and on out through Stung Mean Chey and headed on down towards Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields.

When I visited the Killing Fields in January 2016 a friend of mine was working on building a 20180308_111249canning factory for Cambodia Beer in the same area. The beer have now just become the Cambodia beer sponsor for my football team so I was pleased to see a poster featuring the team outside the canning factory.

Outside Phnom Penh the dual carriageway changed into a single carriageway meaning there are some hairy moments, particularly with lorries overtaking other lorries –


My first view of Phnom Chisor

meaning they take up the whole carriageway and I am forced on the dirt track at the side of road, which I do not fancy much at around 85 kph. The road also narrowed and the traffic slowed down to traverse four bridges formed of metal plates. I had not liked these much when riding the last time, then there was the added danger that it was in the wet season so it was likely to have rained and they might be slippery.

Around midday I stopped for a water break and a local approached me. He asked where 20180308_123920I was from and where I was going and, in response, he told me I was only 3 km further to go on the road before the turning for Phnom Chisor. Around 3 km further and there was a big sign which, from what I knew looking a the site on the internet before, I could see indicated that the turning led to it. I turned down the dirt road catching the occasional glimpse, before I saw the view pictured above. It was not long after that before I arrived, parked the motorbike and paid for it. Despite having a litre of water before leaving and stopping to have another, I’d had bare arms and face on the journey down so would have lost a lot of water. I stopped to buy some from a woman who charged me $1. It is 500 riel, 12 1/2 cents in Phnom Penh and I said so but the only way I would get the water was to pay it so I did. I walked on to find the sign above which told me there were 412 steps to the top. Great! But, good for my health, lol.


So, up I went. About half way up there was a concrete shelter where I stopped to get my


It must be true 412 steps to the top.

breath back and take a picture of what I had climbed up(left) and what there was to go(right). In a mixture of our poor Khmer and English I talked with the person selling things there, then set back off again.When I got to the top there was another shelter raised off the ground and the woman selling things from there laughed when I collapsed and fell on my back wheezing for display. I bought a water from her, 2,000 riel – about 50 cents, so better.

I walked around a bit and saw a Buddha in the centre of a pond and a couple of other shrines, but nothing special. I walked a bit further, went round a bend, and there it was. The ancient temple I had seen in the film.


I walked around some, taking photos:

One of the things I found stunning in the film was the view over surrounding countryside, like this;


It was just too hot to walk down to the temple at the foot and then onto the lake so that will have to wait for another time.

What I did enjoy, having gone there on my own, was the friendliness of the Khmer people there most of whom said hello to me walking around or on the ascent or descent, and were even more pleased when I replied “Sus-duy”, Khmer for hello;

In fact on the way down, when I stopped at the same place I stopped on the way up, I 20180308_132003was asked for a photo by a school-girl. I wondered at the wisdom of it but thought it okay as her teacher and colleagues were there. I also thought about having my picture taken as the only Barang at the temple, but thought what the hell. I got one in return. Through my poor Khmer and their better English I found out they were a group of students from a school in Phnom Penh and the teacher with them was their Khmer teacher. There were English teachers with them but they were elsewhere in the temple. It would have been nice to talk to them, professional to professional. I bought a water for 2,000 riel and after a rest made my way down again.

I had not eaten and it was about half one so I looked for somewhere to get fried rice or something. There were plenty of cooking places with people cooking at them but they seemed like family cooking for family, the equivalent of cooking a bbq. I walked around but didn’t see anyone cooking and selling food. Then I saw someone selling fruit and remembered how, on my bike ride two years earlier we had been kept going with fruit and I also remembered how wonderful the local pineapple are. So I bought one and ate it:

It really was as wonderful as I remembered it. I bought a bottle of water from the stall next door for 500 riel, the price I usually pay from a street vendor in Phnom Penh and then set off back.

I got back, without major incident, at 4, beating the start of the rush hour, as I had aimed. On the way down I had ridden in my t-shirt and my arms and face were red which is why I covered up, as seen in the photo at the beginning, for the return journey. But, I had nothing to cover my hands for the return journey which meant they were in the strong sun for four hours and were slightly burnt. Moisturiser and Tiger Balm have soothed that. What to do for next International Women’s Day?

The Norman Geras Reader: A review


This is a re-post of a review of a book I’ve yet to read from the excellent Harry’s Place. It is about Norman Geras who I discovered through his excellent Normblog which was required reading. A book has been published of his writings, on the blog and through other means. If you like this buy the book here.

Norman Geras (1943-2013) was a significant political theorist, but was better known to most here as the creator of ‘Normblog’, a compelling blend of politics, culture, cricket and much more – Harry’s Place readers will remember his regular interviews with fellow bloggers and his eclectic ‘Writer’s Choice’ guest spots.  Whenever some contentious political or moral issue was in the news I would always turn to Normblog, eager to find out what his take on the latest controversy would be.

There was of course much common ground between Normblog and Harry’s Place (and I discovered them around the same time.) Geras was the principal author of the Euston Manifesto, and a leading light in what came to be known as the ‘Decent’ left (a term he disliked). Eve Garrard offers a succinct summary of his political outlook here.

He was centrally and always a man of the left, but one who became a scourge of those parts of left/liberal opinion which, in his view, had slid away from commitment to the values of equality, justice and universal rights, and in so doing ended up by excusing or condoning racism and terrorism.

However there was one vital difference from HP – Norm never opened his posts for comments …

The Norman Geras Reader: What’s There is There’ (eds Ben Cohen and Eve Garrard) brings together these different sides of Geras’ legacy: academic discussions of Marxism, highlights from Normblog, both light and serious, and companion essays by Alan Johnson and Terry Glavin.

Geras’ Marxism puzzled some of his liberal admirers, and one of the focuses of this volume is his insistence on the common ground between Marxism and liberalism, together with his commitment to anti-authoritarianism and humanitarian intervention.  As a fan of Normblog, I found it rewarding to discover here more detailed and extended discussions of these key topics; In ‘Minimum utopia: ten theses’, for example, he discriminates carefully between the benign and destructive tendencies of both liberalism and socialism, promoting a kind of synthesis between forces sometimes viewed as incompatible. The best institutes and practices of liberalism:

should not be set aside, in particular, on the basis only of a present confidence in some future spontaneous harmony. The great evils we hope to be able to remedy include precisely evils against which liberal institutions have given some protection.(p. 56)

His dislikes, ‘the shibboleths of the modern left’ and ‘morally blind anti-imperialist politics’ (p. 4) also feature prominently in the volume.  In ‘What does it mean to be a Marxist’ he writes eloquently about a fatal blind spot on (sections of) the left: the tendency to treat capitalism as the sole adversary and gloss over evils with a different provenance:

… the democracies of the West flawed, at fault, hypocritical, aggressors, and so forth, while quite appallingly anti-democratic movements and regimes are made apology for, and bathed in the mitigation of that shallow root-causes sociology to which I earlier referred – root causes for which some proximate ‘we’ is always said to bear the ultimate responsibility. Tyranny, terrorism, even genocide, almost cease to be horrors in their own right, evils to be opposed alongside economic exploitation, inequality, poverty and other byproducts of global capitalism. They are, as it were, ‘levelled’ by always being traced back in their turn to capitalism and imperialism, so that they become lesser evils and their direct agents and perpetrators lesser enemies. (p. 113)

Antisemitism was a significant theme in Normblog, and it was good to revisit his excellent essay ‘Alibi Antisemitism’, and its searing critique of Caryl Churchill’s ‘Seven Jewish Children’:

Churchill, however, disavowed [the charge of antisemitism]. She did so on the grounds of what one might call an innocent mind. No anti-Semitism had been intended by her. On the one hand, the blood libel analogy had not been part of her thinking when she wrote the play; on the other hand, those speaking the offending lines in it were not meant to be Jews in general, merely individual Israelis. Churchill is evidently innocent here of any memory of the figure of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, long thought of, despite his being only one character, as putting Jews in a bad light. She is innocent, too, of her own generalizing tendencies in naming her play ‘Seven Jewish Children’ and then linking the broad themes of the Jews as victims of genocide and as putative perpetrators of it in their turn.

The responsibility to protect, the concept of the ‘contract of mutual indifference’, were key concepts both in Geras’s academic writings and in Normblog. In his essay ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ he explores the history of support for this concept, and the problems involved in negotiating competing goods: the integrity of the sovereign state and the imperative to protect. He also reflects on the question of thresholds – how severe must the crime, the human suffering be, in order for humanitarian intervention to become justifiable, particularly when weighed against the risk of an escalation into full scale war?

Although there is much here about war, politics, bigotry and suffering, The Norman Geras Reader doesn’t neglect the lighter side of Norm’s work.  Included here are blog posts on Jane Austen, jazz, cricket, Bob Dylan and Dickens.  I thoroughly recommend the volume to old devotees of Norm’s work – and new admirers.  Terry Glavin, in his epilogue, perfectly sums up what it felt like to first stumble across Normblog:

Reading Normblog always meant learning something, and it was what I imagined it must have been like, hearing the reassuring sound of far-off voices from a wireless in a fishboat galley, with news and analyses of the most momentous events of the day. Normblog was an unapologetically left-wing place, of at the very least a liberal milieu, and yet neither the host nor any of the contributors had lost their damn minds. (p. 249).

15 Reasons To Never Visit Cambodia


Don’t ever come to Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder!

When in Cambodia

1. What is it even famous for?

Angkor-Wat_2399296a-large credit: the telegraph

Angkor Wat, national symbol represented in the flag, in Siem Reap.

2. Temples are just rocksssssssssss

c3193c02829fa0353f8d53d053994df0 credit: Pinterest

The grand gate of Bayon, a gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park

3. Temples are all the same!

Angkor_Capital_Asienreisender_880pxs credit: asienreisender

The Angkor Archeological Park in a picture. (Just some of the temples)

4. Foods aren’t that great

fried-noodles credit: goankhmerunited

Cambodia could be a hidden gem if you’re an enthusiast of STREET FOOD.

what-to-eat-cambodia-Fish-Amok-960x640 credit: adventureinyou

Amok is one of the most favourite dishes visitor never forget to try!

phnom-penh-01 credit: urbanadventures

What is know for the weird Cambodian cuisine is the insect eating tradition. Angelina Jolie approved.

5. What to even do with that big fresh water lake?

Tonle-sap-floating-village-Cambodia-Siem-Reap-Eternal-Asia-Travel credit: eternalasiatravel

Be hold, the floating village of Tonle Sap.

6. People aren’t friendly

cambodia1 credit: mekongtourism

Cambodians are ranked among the most friendliest nation on earth…

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