Architecture Tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo II

13/09/2016

At the end of the first part I left people tantalised. (Well maybe I did, maybe you don’t give a toss, for the narrative I’ll continue believing I do) A whole piece about a tour of Phnom Penh by cyclo and no cyclos. What gives, eh? The last picture was the key to the tantalising with the back of our guide and some cyclos. So, to release the tension here are pictures of cyclos from the rest of the tour.

The first two pictures on the right show us mounting up, what other verb can I use for getting on/in a cyclo? The one on the left at the top shows us processing towards Wat Phnom and then they show, from the left, the author at repose in his cyclo, the convoy of cyclos turning left, in amongst the traffic and the start, sort of like the start of the Le Mans! (Wat Phnom is again in the background, we have traveled anti-clockwise from 3 to 6.)  So, now the lust for cyclos is sated I can move on with the narrative, our first stop was at a Chinese temple.

 

From the top, we see the outside of the temple which is in the grounds of s school. Our guide, Virak, said the King was pleased to have the Chinese in Cambodia and gave them the land on which the school and temple are built. It is possible to learn Madarin at the school for $100 a year he said. The people who worship at the temple are from southern China and Taiwan. Next picture down shows the detail of the window and on the right, at the top of the column a Khmer detail. Going in, on the right, we saw the dragon to protect people on the water, which is why the fish are in front of it. On the left was the tiger to protect people on the land and it has plants in front of it. Both have a small dragon and tiger pictured also to reflect continuity. I just like drums which is why that picture is there and the final, main, picture is of the altar.

Next stop was another Chinese temple. This time made of wood. In writing this I found another blog written about the tour (giving a different perspective of it) which also posted a picture (left) of the temple from three years ago. I think it makes an interesting comparison to what we saw.

Our guide said that before the Khmer Rouge there were no other buildings here but the price of land and the largely uncontrolled state of planning and building mean that people build something wherever they can. Obviously the temple has not been used for worship for a long time.

We walked further on and came to another religious building, a former Catholic Chapel which was used for Taikwando and as a school but is also now lived in and is very dark so people need to keep the lights on and I can’t imagine there’s too much ventilation for cooking smoke and fumes.

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We then got back in the cyclos and went to the National Library of Cambodia. Obviously built in the colonial period, we are back in the European quarter with very classical architecture, although the columns share the Khmer feature with the Chinese temple, the only nod to the location of the building. The Khmer Rouge used this as a kitchen and canteen with animals living in the grounds which were slaughtered and then cooked and eaten inside. Some of the books were used for the cooking. The library is in the centre with the stores and offices in the wings, which can just be seen, on the left and the right respectively. Back to the cyclos.

We then toured past the Hotel Raffles Le Royal. (Top right) Built in 1929, what the hotel’s biog doesn’t say is that after the coup in 1970, as part of the republicanisation of the country, it’s name was changed to Hotel Le Phnom and it is as that it features in the film ‘The Killing Fields‘.  After a five year renovation by the Raffles group it is one of the more high class hotels.  Then, bottom right, is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications building. Another government office building – what’s so special about that? It is not what is there now that matters but what was there before. It is the site of the former Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Pictured, from a stamp, below) Building work on it started in 1951 financed by the, secular, French government, but it was dynamited in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge. The architect said he was not disappointed by its fate as it had been built on the same layout as the Wat Phnom at the other end of the boulevard and he had never been happy with the challenge to the primeval Budhist pagoda in the city. The final picture on the left is us passing the station built in the 30’s by the engineer who also worked on the architectural wonder that is the Central Market, and it was said that he learned how to work with reinforced concrete on this building before going on to use it so successfully on the market.

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Our last stop was at the former Hotel International which was originally built 1900-1910 On what was Phnom Penh’s busiest shopping streets as the Magasin Paris, the place to get your items fresh from France. It has been altered many times and no longer a hotel; the old signs are still readable on the entrance, i.e.’Horlogerie’, a clock store. The Hotel’s name, in Khmer, is still visible high up the building and you can see where people have built homes on the roof and like the hotel at the start of the tour it is now lived in by many families and the ground floor is given over to shops. Our guide said he had recently seen adverts for the hotel from the 1970’s when the hotel was heavily discounting the rooms, no doubt a function of the uncertainty as a result of the civil war taking place between the Lon Nol government and the Khmer Rouge. We got back into the cyclos and returned to the Post Office Square. If you are in Phnom Penh do take one of their tours, you learn not just about architecture but the history of the city and country, social history and so much more and the enthusiasm of the guide for the subject is contagious.

Architecture tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo I

12/09/2016

Cyclo. You know those things with a seat in the front and a chap pedaling at the back. Well, the fab people at Khmer Architecture Tours do one of Phnom Penh by cyclo and Sunday morning I did it. Previously I had taken the “1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork + the White Building in Bassac” tour and found it interesting, not just in terms of the architecture, but also in terms of the Cambodia history and social history that was learnt. We met at the Post Office, which was a place I knew well from leaving there to travel to Sihanoukville by bus and, more recently, as the place to collect post from my PO Box. The lack of a functioning postal service, as would be understood in the West meant it was more visited by tourists than locals. It was 8:30 which meant I didn’t spend enough time the night before celebrating Manchester being blue. The Post Office, pictured below.

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The middle building with the three arched entrances was built at the beginning of the last century with additions of the red roofed wings in the 30’s and flat roofed wings at the edge in the 1990’s. On the top you’ll see are some loudspeakers which our guide said replaced a cupola when the Japanese were here in the 1940’s. However, they remind me so much of the civil defence system to be seen throughout France which is rehearsed at midday on the first Wednesday throughout the country. I asked the guide if he thought they could have been under the cupola and only discovered once the Japanese removed it but he demurred.

Across the street is a former hotel, (pictured top right) built in the first decade of the last century. After the Khmer Rouge left Vietnamese people lived in it until they left at the end of the 80’s when people working for the Post Office moved in and took over the premises. They kindly let us into the public areas on the first floor but residents on the second were not so keen to let us visit. We went up a stairway to the right of the door and onto the first floor where there were original features which came from France including tiles.(pictured left) In the last century Hotel Grand was built backing onto the building, facing onto the Tonle Sap River and after a time the owner bought this hotel and connected this to the other, the back of which can be seen in the bottom middle left picture.  They were joined together such that a corridor went at right angles at the end of the picture bottom middle right, which was taken from the same spot as looking out onto the courtyard and back of the hotel just after turning 90 degrees. The picture bottom right shows one of the room numbers, still visible and bottom left us with the guide on the landing.

The third of four buildings on the square was built as the Bank of Indochina and became 103702-730419the property of the Van family in the 1965. After the Khmer Rouge it became government buildings until around 2000 when the family got/bought it back from them and it has been fully renovated and is now quite a fancy restaurant, named Van’s. I was recommended the 17:00 – 19:00 ‘happy hour’ and was minded to investigate but rain throughout the time prevented it from happening, maybe another time.

We walked round to see the front of Hotel Grand, sometime called the Hotel Grand grand-hotelManolis after the eponymous owner, but I took no pictures of it.The guide had a picture of how it used to be, similar to the one on the right. The two arches on the left still house a small restaurant/cafe but the ones on the right have been removed to create a KFC. The website for Getty images, which features a similar photo, but not this one below,(for rights reasons) said “Phom Penh’s first KFC opened in a refurbished colonial building along the waterfront. Many older colonial buildings have been renovated in recent years, while others have been razed for new construction. p1110123Others limp on as shabby apartments and businesses..” Hmm, so lets obliterate the front of a classical piece of colonial architecture and replace it with something which looks just the same as if it was built in Dagenham or Delhi. The pictures the guide showed of the hotel lobby said even more what a loss this was to the city, for not much gain.

A proper example of a former colonial piece of architecture sympathetically restored is the coffee shop across the road, also on the quay.

Anyway, we walked back onto the square, across it and then round the back of the former p1170112Police Station. This building was built in the 1930’s to replace the previous police station built there in 1910. No-one knows why the previous one was replaced but the guide explained that this one had an external wall and then a corridor all around the building before the offices, cells etc inside. Allowing the outside wall to take the heat or the rain, air to circulate and the offices, cells etc to be cool without air-con. Intelligent building design in the tropics.

Anyway, the story from the guide was that the building was bought by a company who wanted to raise it and build a skyscraper but it has never happened. So, some people run a business in the courtyard and live, along with other people in the building. The number of trees growing on the building were pointed out and it was said that the roof leaked and that trees (As seen on the roof top right of this picture from the rear of the building) and water, two of the dangers to built structures, mean that unless something is done, it would eventually collapse.

The picture on the right, our guide argued, showed how the architect had designed the building as a coherent whole, the pattern below the window reflecting the arch at the top of the window, as well as the features for a building in the tropics already mentioned, which was reflect throughout the building and that was why this was actually more deserving of renovation than the Post Office and the KFC.

Anyway, I started by talking about a Cyclo tour and all it’s been so far is a trudging around the Post Office Square looking at buildings that used to be something, apart from the Post Office, obviously. So have I sold you short? Are there really any Cyclos? Well you’ll just have to wait for the next installment. Which may, or may not, involve Chinese temples, Catholic Chapels, a library, a destroyed Catholic Cathedral, apartments now shops and a former apartment store. As a hint, one last picture.

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Three little words – Khmer will set you free!

04/09/2016

Probably not the ones you are thinking about. The three most useful words in Khmer for a ‘barang’* like me are not the equivalent of the ones the Hump  sang about on this link; here.(It seems WordPress no longer allows the use of youtube on free accounts like this.)

mr-20chanthouNo they are, “Knom chung dar”*, or I want to walk. Reading ex-pat forums one of the most frequent complaints I read is about the amount of times you are propositioned by tuk-tuk (see picture left) or motodop(see below) drivers walking around Phnom Penh. But hey, they are just businessmen, and they are all men – well so far in my experience, seeking to make a living. Why shouldn’t they tout for trade? Complaining about it seems symptomatic to me of one of the dangers of ex-pat existence. Not becoming part of the society you live in and railing against aspects of it you do not like. Why not learn to engage, with a smile? The ones near me have now learnt that during the day when I am not wearing a shirt with a collar, trousers and shoes, and often, carrying a helmet, I am most likely going to want to walk and say so. “Ah dar” they say, with a laugh moto-dop-cambodge-cambodia-phnom-penhand everything is Ok. Others on my walk to the nearby Central Market or the swimming pool are also familiar with it, hey they still tout, but why shouldn’t they, it’s their business. But, and it comes down to something deeper these complaining expats maybe haven’t thought about, when I have been with Khmer friends they would rather ride their moto or take a tuk-tuk than walk. It is culturally not expected to walk, it isn’t said, but it is what the poor do, If you can afford it you do not walk. People do not expect to walk if they can avoid it. Walking is a western affectation. So, if you choose to walk, do not complain about people touting for business, engage with the culture and show you are not just an an affected westerner, just as I do!

My next favourite three words are the ones for left, right and straight-on for when I am in the tuk-tuk or on the back of the motodop. Khmer will set you free!

* As it is the transliteration of another script into Roman I accept my spellings of what I hear the Khmer words to be may be wrong for other people, they are right for me and generally work – that’s what counts as far as I am concerned.

Why I swim

30/08/2016

Today I swam a kilometre for the second time, the first, according to my facebook post, so it must be true, was on 19th July. Since I achieved this distance I have not spent any time in the water until just over a week ago, so it was pleasing to achieve it again today. What I also achieved today was to swim 600 metres non-stop. The first time I have done this, and 50% better than my previous non-stop distance.

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The picture shows the pool I go to at the Olympic Stadium.(It was taken in February the building site behind, between the pool and the Cambodian Olympic Committee building, would now not fit in the picture.) People who do not remember the Cambodian Olympics will not be wrong as there has not been one. The stadium was designed and built in 1963-4 to Olympic standards to accommodate the 1964 GANEFO Games by Khmer modern architect Vann Molyvann and I find the pool is a joy to swim in.

It is only this year that I have started swimming as my exercise. As a teen I had swum a lot, getting my 800 metres badge and the silver life-saving badge. But a verruca resulted in me not swimming for 18 months and still going to the pool every week to watch my brother achieve a lot of other badges etc. He is a good swimmer and has continued doing it. I really lost interest in doing it much other than splish-splashing around for fun.

Then JTO visited at the beginning of this year, she is a devout swimmer and goes wherever she is so visited the pool a number of times, I walked with her to the pool from my former residence a couple of times and had a swim.(Former residence sounds so much grander than the flat I used to live in!) After she had gone I realised that I was not getting much exercise. Over the previous summer I had been living in Leeds and had cycled more than 4 miles to work and home again every day and, because of the spread out nature of my workplace at the university, had been walking more than 10,000 steps every day. Some days now I walked less than 1,000 steps and traveled everywhere by Tuk-Tuk. I was getting fatter and not getting much exercise.

As a result I decided to give swimming a go. I set myself a goal of swimming a kilometre, and then swimming a kilometre non-stop. A post on facebook, after doing 900 metres for the first time, by a friend resulted in me subsequently adding a further goal of swimming a mile, or the closest to it, of 1,500 metres. In my first swim in March I swam 6 lengths of the 50 metres pool and stopped after each one. In the heat of the Phnom Penh day it is nice to get into the water, although the pool is more like the temperature of a nice bath. The picture below shows some people who came to see me achieve my first goal!

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As I said, I achieved the first goal last month. Afterwards I kind of enjoyed laying off the monomania necessary to keep going at it. However, after a few weeks I started to miss swimming and the exercise. I started to feel tired in my limbs more often and didn’t get that clear head and oxygen high from doing the exercise. I missed it. So little over a week ago I started walking down to the pool from my flat again. First time I swam 600 metres and it has built up from there. So I was somewhat pleased to swim the distance again. I was also pleased to achieve another personal best of swimming 600 metres non-stop, more than twice the distance I originally managed without any stops- progress!

My current schedule means that I work very full days Monday, Wednesday and Friday and all Saturday morning. However I do not start work until later in the afternoon Tuesday and Thursday so I am able to get to the pool in the morning on those days and on Sunday and I like to do so. I am lucky to live in a place where an outdoor pool is available all the time, costs only $2 for foreigners like me, and it is a joy to get into the water and out of the heat.It is even better that, outside Sunday afternoons, I pretty much get the pool to myself. Imagine, an Olympic size pool, in a hot country, pretty much to yourself.

Jeremy Corbyn says he is going to betray “the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,”

27/06/2016

I normally try to avoid posts on politics, especially Labour politics, since my views lost in the Labour leadership election then in the referendum about Europe. I am clearly on the wrong side, the others won so shut up.

However, you knew that would be coming didn’t you? The headline has given away that I am going to write something about the Leader of the Labour Party, that I did not support last year.

OK, so what great political insight have I come up with that requires a breaking of my self-ordained silence on the matter? Nothing. This is not a political post but a logical one. If you ask me to be more precise, a symbolic logic one. A search for how we can decide if a statement is true or not.

Symbolic logic tries, this is my own description from what I understood studying it so I know I may be wildly off course, to represent the logic of sentences with symbols so it is easier to understand the logical meaning and consequences of what we say, are they true or not.

The beginning of my study was “and statements” and “or statements.” Sentences with and in and/or ones with or in. How do we decide if they are true?

Basically, for statements involving “and” both parts of the statement had to be true for the statement to be true. Whereas, statements involving “or”, only one half of the statement had to be true for the statement to to be true. Symbolically it works out like this, I thank Hotmath.com for the following table:

Symbolic Logic

Conjunction (AND statements)

A conjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word and. In symbolic logic, the conjunction of p and q is written pq.

A conjunction is true only if both the statements in it are true. The following truth table gives the truth value of p∧ depending on the truth values of p and q .

p          q         pq

T          T           T

T          F           F

F           T             F

F           F              F

So, for example, if we say “He likes oranges and lemons.” Then, if he likes lemons and oranges it is true, but if he likes lemons but not oranges then any statement saying he likes oranges and lemons or vice versa, will not be true as he does not like both of them. If he does not like both of them then any statement saying he likes both of them will not be true either.

Disjunction(OR statements)

A disjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word or. In symbolic logic, the disjunction of p or q is written pq.

A disjunction is true if either one or both of the statements in it is true. The following truth table gives the truth value of pqp∨q depending on the truth values of pp and qq.

p           q             q

F            F                F

T             F                T

F             T                 T

T            T                T

So, if the statement is “He likes oranges or lemons.” will be true so long as he likes both of them, oranges, or lemons, but not if he hates them both.

Thus, using symbolic logic we can see that Jeremy Corbyn’s statement “I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me – or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,” logically means, he could betray the trust of those who voted for him, or the supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them. It is an “Or statement” so he could be seeking to betray anyone.

However, if both statements are true the whole statement is true. But, if that was the case, why not use an “and statement” to make sure the logic is clear and doubly locked in? I can only assume that by not using an “and statement” and by choosing an “or statement” Jeremy, or the people who speak for him, unwittingly highlighted a truth about him, that he, and/or they, know that he will betray the trust of one of them. He cannot keep the faith with both.

Is it “those who voted for me” or “the millions of supporters who need Labour to represent them?” Who does he think his continued leadership betrays?

The headline is my answer to that question.

I love the taste of Kampot pepper in the evening

23/06/2016

Saturday has been a day of work for me since starting this job last September, unless part of a general series of holidays. However Saturday 18th June was the sole public holiday as the King’s mother’s birthday. Thank you King for having a mother. Thank you mother for giving birth to the King. So, no work, and, as soon as I found out, a couple of days in Kampot organised.

The resumption of the train meant I could travel down by the train so 7:00 am saw me sat in my seat waiting to leave. A little later, as a result of connecting to the wagon carrying the cars down with us and one small boy was certainly excited to see us pass his father’s car, we set off.

A couple of hours after clearing Phnom Penh, having been offered nice fresh bread by the couple opposite which helped get me through, and picking up speed, we then came to Takeo and a stop. Nice as the couple opposite had been, the leg room in the blue train had not been so great, so it was good to get up and get away from them for a bit, after feeling cooped up. As before the station was lined with people selling all sorts of food and everyone got off for a 20 minute stop.

Arrived in Kampot in time for lunch and where else but the fish market, with great views out across the river to Bokor Mountain, as well as a cool breeze through the structure designed to make the most of it, the like of the breeze had not been experienced in Phnom Penh, and good food.

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After a brief siesta it was off to catch a boat. Whilst waiting for it to sail a couple of friends, who I take part in a weekly quiz with ran past, I knew they were in town with the Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers, but what a small world eh?

The cruise had been sold as a chance to see the sunset over Bokor Mountain so I looked to capture that, together with the scenery many people have become familiar with from photos of the region and then films, particularly Vietnam War films. The other thing after the boat set off was a parade of Cham fishermen off to work. The first picture captures the two with the fisherman off to work in front of the mountain:

For me that palm tree with the the different segments in a circle is just so iconic of the area.

Whilst pictures to the left, taken into the setting sun created the two like the ones above, taken to the right the dying light of the sun left enough to get pictures with the reflections of trees and buildings in the river and, against my expectations, of a flower that there had been lots of, floating down the river.

Well, finally a couple of pictures of a sunset, but no Bokor Mountain. A prize for someone who can say what extra there is in the big picture on the left. The second picture on the right (clockwise) is taken from the boat looking out and was when, after R & B and Khmer and K pop, Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones came on. All of a sudden it felt like being on a boat travelling down the Mekong, up the Mekong or elsewhere in a Vietnam War film and I was just waiting for the whir of the helicopter blades and the opening up of the gunfire from the banks. Fortunately nether of those happened. The ultimate picture shows a reflection from a building under a pretty full moon. I left the boat and passed the fish market where the Hash House Harriers were esconced and loud singing could be heard on my way to get food and a drink.

Dinner was at the Bokor Mountain Lodge, below left, where they do a fantastic Red Snapper cooked with ginger and Kampot pepper. They also have a flag from Manchester City winning the FA Cup in 2011, the first trophy since the 1976 League Cup victory which saw us back to winning trophies, and I was told one of the partners in running the place is a City fan, so, if I go back to Kampot, that is where I would have to stay. It is always a must to eat it there when in the ‘pot’. Talking of which, afterwards I went to another must visit place, Oh Neils, where I ran into a large number of the Hash House Harriers at the end of a day running and drinking ,which started not long after they left Phnom Penh at 7:00 too. (Picture of Oh Neils was taken the morning after, it is usually very much more welcoming.)

I read the news today oh boy, an MP killed just doing their job.

16/06/2016

Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.

OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.

Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?

That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.

But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.

After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.

Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.

Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.

They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.

Engexit?

09/06/2016

So, the Euros 2016 are almost upon us. With some friends at work I am part of a facebook page chatting and, we have to , obvs bantering about the tournament, chances of different teams etc. The group also offers a chance to crowd source opinions for a colleague who plans to gamble on the tournament and hopes to repeat his World Cup heroics of coming out $300 ahead.

I have contributed a fun imagining of England’s performance based upon the many disappointments I have had to suffer since the 1970’s World Cup as an Englishman and football fan. It is just a bit of fun, or is it….

Ok, so 50 years of hurt, though even I’m not old enough to remember ‘66 and the World Cup victory. Based upon the experience of most of the previous competitions England have qualified for, and , remembering the 70’s and 80’s that was not always a given, what do I expect this time?

It has already started with past hero’s saying we ‘have the most exciting team since ‘66.

The hyperbole level has already started rising and it will only get worse as the Russia match get closer.

In the match against Russia we let in a soft early goal and a key player, possibly Joe Hart,(You do not know how much it hurts me even to suggest this) will be injured and out until the next round. We will get lucky and equalise late on when Rooney has gone off and Kane and Vardy are playing as a duo up front.

Not bowing to the clamour from the press Hodgson plays Rooney as part of a front three with Kane and Vardy out wide against Wales. The Welsh clearly want it more than the over-paid, over-hyped English team and win 2-0.

For the last group match Hodgson bows to the pressure from the media and the English public and plays Kane and Vardy up front and England win this ‘must win’ match 2 -1, again coming from behind, to qualify in second place behind Wales thanks to a 0-0 draw between Russia and Slovakia and Wales beating the both of them.

We play the surprise winners of group A, Romania, in the next round, and win 2-1 thanks to a dodgy off-side goal. The media and public are now crowing about how England have beaten the tamers of the host country and pre-tournament favourites, and how we can go all the way.

In the next round,  despite heroics from a fit again Joe Hart, we go out on penalties to France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy.(Take your pick) The players arrive home to opprobrium and vilification and a national newspaper printing Roy Hodgson’s head over a turd and another printing the home addresses of the failures with the headline, “We know where you live” and death threats against them leading to a round the clock Police presence required at their homes.

Just a bit of fun……..

First world problems in a developing country

31/05/2016

On the way home last night, despite purchasing a bottle of gin and a lime, I realised there 20160531_140226.jpgwas no tonic at home. No shop near me sells tonic, despite a frantic search, although the place I lived previously was more cosmopolitan and had it readily available. So, the gin remained unopened.

This morning then the dilemma. Could I justify going to the supermarket just to get tonic and a lemon? Heck yes. So I went to my local supermarket and, instead of a six pack of tonic at $2.80 I could get a slab at $8.90. Result. But, one step forward two steps back. No lemons for sale. Existential crisis, what to do? Lime it will have to be.

My other piece of shopping on the way home was a paintbrush. This is not because I have just developed a love of the fine-arts but because my chilli plant is flowering. I dot see many bees around the neighbourhood, despite there being more greenery than you would think in the centre of Phnom Penh. 20160531_141159.jpgSo, if I want chillis, which I most certainly do, then I am going to have to fertilise the plant myself, which has now been done to the two flowers showing so far. With more on the way it looks like I’m going to have to get more familiar with fertilising things than I previously thought I would.

Tuesday and Thursday I start work at 17:30 which kind of makes up for having to work five hours on Saturday morning. It allows me to get admin, studying, cleaning and other things done which do not then have to be done at the weekend. One thing I also have come to enjoy doing is 20160531_111914.jpggoing for a swim at the Olympic Pool in the Olympic Stadium. It was not built to host the Olympics but there was hope of getting the Asian Games in the 60’s which led to the construction of the stadium, pool etc. For $2 I usually get personal use of a 50 metre pool. This time I was not alone. A video was being shot, first the star lip-syncing then joined by a troupe of backing dancers. First with the diving board and pool as a backdrop, then through the fence. It entertained me as I made my way up and down to complete my 7 x 100 metres swim. On getting out I took the picture above of the ‘star’ does any reader know who it is?

Boys, girls, airfield, New temple in old, bamboo bridge and French lighthouse.

29/05/2016

The last full day in what was now being called ‘the Cham’ started leisurely enough with a lie-in followed by  breakfast at the Mekong Crossing. We got on our bikes and headed out of Kompong Cham on Route 7, the one we should have arrived on! All we knew was that we were looking for a bird statue. After a few kilometres we came to what seemed like a dragon with wings, our map had a dragon with wings before the bird so we went on for another 12 kilometres before deciding it wasn’t a dragon after all but a bird and went back to it. This took us to Phnom Pros, Man Hill.

The pictures above show the temple at the top of the hill, the view across to Women hill and scenes including me with my new pet and a woman respectively. The link above says that this was a site for detention and torturing in Kompong Cham province during the Khmer Rouge. Afterwards across to Phnom Srey, Woman Hill.

The pictures above showing the climb to the top, two pictures at the top and the view across to Phnom Pros. The temple at the top was not as big or ornate as the one at the top of Phnom Pros but the hill was taller and not accessible by road.

After the temples we set off in search of an old airport. We found the airport. There is nothing I could find on the internet which explained why there was an airport here and why it has fallen into disuse.

What I do know is that whilst I was trying to get closer to what we imagined was the control tower at the airfield (pictured below) someone’s motorbike ceased working. Initially we thought it had run out of fuel so I went off to a roadside stall we had passed on the way to the airfield to get supplies, making sure I filled up my tank too to avoid the same problem, and returned with two-thirds of a litre of fuel. The bike would still not move. Two hours later in the heat of the midday sun we still had not moved, apart from eventually pushing our bikes into the shade of a tree and me going off to get drinks. The guest house had been rung and there were stories about a mechanic coming but not finding us so going home for his lunch,  the guest house trying to ring but getting no reply as I had no signal and then then sending us a tuk-tuk to tow the bike back into town. Fortunately this was not necessary as, in the course of preparing to tow the bike, one of the people who came to attend to us discovered that the engine cut-off switch, pictured below in the correct position, had been pulled forward to cut-off the engine. What a stupid mistake. We had been told about it when hiring the bikes but had forgotten. Anyway, we could continue on our way, after rewarding the tuk-tuk drive and his mate for their troubles in helping us resolve our troubles.

Now we were mobile again it was back to town, stopping to fill the tanks right up, after I had eventually managed to open mine much to the amusement and chagrin, at the same time, of the attendant. So it was off to Wat Nokor, an 11th century temple with a new temple built inside. It has it’s own Oedipal  story.

After being out in the sun on the airfield a breeze and some shade were very welcome. I’m known to one person in particular as ‘grumpy’, I think we can see from the picture at the top on the right which of us is grumpy! After touring the site it was off to the final two destinations. The first of which was the Bamboo Bridge. It is said this is washed away each year and rebuilt again, a seemingly Sisyphean task. It was a bit worrying at first as it was approached through sand and the previous days experience with mud made us very wary of it and then there was always the fear of the bamboo giving way.

Once safely on the island on the other side of the river we could see the floating houses of the Cham community, which give the town part of its name, and their Mosque pictured above. The final stop of the day was the old colonial lighthouse. This was something of a race against time, to get there and back before the rain closed in, the dark skies showing on the picture above.

We finally crossed the Mekong to the Old French Lighthouse, although some dispute whether it was a lighthouse, or is French. You can’t really see the steepness of the steps on the ladder, which would not have been a problem ascending but would have been horrible coming back down, which were sufficiently discouraging to prevent us trying to get to the top.There was even time to take the photo of the tower from the Kizuna bridge before heading back to the guest-house just as the rains came. A nice fish and chips supper and a few beers before heading to bed and falling asleep from the rigours of the day.

 


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