Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

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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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.

On the streets of Kompong Cham

24/05/2016

Kompong Cham, Cambodia’s third largest city and, according to Travel North East Cambodia, “is the capital of Cambodia’s most populous province.”

Travelfish goes on to say, “It’s also remarkably pretty, not only in the landscape, but also in the architecture. If you want to get a feel for a real Cambodian city — Phnom Penh is predominantly Chinese or Sino-Khmer, and Siem Reap is… something else — then this offers an interesting glimpse. The city is large, though the central area hugging the Mekong is where you’ll likely spend most of your time. From there, explorers will be rewarded with an array of architecture styles from early French colonial buildings, typical Chinese shophouses, and buildings influenced by the New Khmer Architectural style developed during Cambodia’s “golden” years in the 1960s.”

Descriptions also go on to talk about Angkorian statues around the town. I don’t think Carlsberg do statues but you would have thought, if they did, they would probably be the best statues in the world…….

And, from early evening the river-front becomes busy as people promenade, play sports, eat street food and take exercise, or in the case of most of the men, wait and watch while the women take exercise.

No Through Road

01/11/2015

Saturday morning is my earliest start at work. 8:00 for a four and a half hour shift, with breaks lasting until 13:00. 20151031_170728_22010392404_oThis week it also happened to be the day after our staff party so I was not at my most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and took long enough getting up that I did not have enough time for breakfast. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am subhuman early in the morning, if not up to midday and that breakfast is one thing which helps make me more human. So the last thing I 20151031_170654_22445236890_oneeded was something to throw things out of kilter.

So, I walk downstairs, open the gate, turn out of the flat and get in the tuk-tuk and see that the road is blocked off in front of us. (Picture top left)

Ahhhhh how will I get to work? I’ll be late, they’ll think I got so drunk at the staff do I couldn’t make it. Fortunately the panic did 20151031_134233_22617175782_onot last long as the driver turned the tuk-tuk round and we went another route around the road blockage. Actually it worked in my advantage as the changed route took us past the ABC Bakery and I was able to stop and get breakfast. So, things improved.

I did the shift and returned home to see the public notice telling people that the road was closed.(top right) Later on I paid my rent to my landlord and, chatting with his daughter whilst he was seeking change for me, I discovered that the road had been closed for a wedding, which was better than closing it for a funeral,  and that it would be closed for two days.(picture second left showing how effectively the road was closed) I also learnt that there would not be singing and dancing on Saturday evening but that it would take place on Sunday morning.

So Sunday morning I was up early and out 20151101_122112_22473843730_oon the balcony for my breakfast and I heard some quite haunting and beautiful music. Not exactly what I am used to but pleasant none the less. Later on, after midday, people started to leave for their cars. (picture second right) Though, in parenthesis I do know what the trucks were doing in the centre of the street blocking the car in. Earlier one of them had been piled high with bikes, clearance of a second-hand bike shop? Who knows what?

Well, Sunday afternoon I went to the The Flicks 1, self-described as a community movie house, (A room soundproofed with a projector, quadraphonic audio and scatter cushions and some seats i.e. not a conventional multiplex)  to see Beasts of No Nation about a child in an African country who loses his mother and sister and then sees his father and elder brother killed and 20151101_163857_22678703511_oends up fighting for a militia.

I returned home to see the street as clear as it had been before the tent was constructed, (last picture left) with maybe a bit extra rubbish by the side of the road but that would be gone by the morning and probably was nothing to do with the wedding but just the people whose houses were cut off during it, not having their rubbish collected whilst the street was blocked.

So just another day in Phnom Penh. The street was blocked. Some people got married and then it was clear again. People’s lives went on around it and walking around and talking to, admittedly only a few people, I did not detect any fuss or people expressing inconvenience.

UPDATE

This morning a new tent appeared on the street. Oh, it really is wedding season. But then people just went through it as if it wasn’t there. Tent there at 12:30 when I left for work and gone at 20:15 when I got home again and seemingly gone for some time so the tuk-tuk driver knew not to worry about taking another route to avoid it when going back home.

A Sunday afternoon walk

18/10/2015

After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

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I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.

I’m just not buying it

17/03/2013

Two articles on the future of retail. One talking from an personal experience and the other mostly pontificating url-1based upon stories that had been in other media. A vivid contrast in thoughtfulness, judgement and identifying what can be concluded from experience. To start with the second:

“Redefining the role of retail in regeneration policy is now a key challenge for planners in the UK. Much of the urban re-generation through the 1990s and the first decade of the new century focused on the importance of the city centre(1). UK projects drew from European success stories: Barcelona, Berlin, Bilbao and applied it to our new public spaces. Planning criteria drawn up under John Prescott during the first term of Labour Government acted as a constraint on the out-of-town mall and sprawling retail parks as the first priority for retail chains. The rules didn’t halt out of town development but it did push the balance back toward the urban centre. Had this been a matter of solely planning intent it would have been doomed from the outset. The market was on the side of the planner. Affluence, increasing disposable income and cultural changes created in the UK a much expanded ‘after hours’ economy which was to do with far more than mere alcohol consumption. Eating out in the UK had been something only the better off could do until the 1980s since when it has grown dramatically. The growth of dining out as much as anything else made city centre became a destination for the evening and created employment for an increasing pool of young part-time labour. Music, club culture and the resurgence of cinema all played their part in transforming the ‘closed after work’ UK city centre to an all day, all night economy.”

I’ll start with a declaration of interest in that I was involved in the successful work to revamp the city centre of a imgresmajor southern town in the 1990’s – that’s my qualification for commenting on the shortcomings of this piece. I’ll come back to the first sentence later. The following paragraph I essentially agree with though it wasn’t just the examples from abroad which were followed, there were examples, both the good and the bad, from closer to home that were able to be learnt from. During this time I was also an employee trustee on my pension scheme and after the early 90’s recession the investment which gave the best returns was retail so people were seeking to invest in it too. This undermines the following paragraph as the motor came from investors looking to build new or expanded retail. The paragraph also puts too much emphasis on night-time activity. People want to eat-out, go to the cinema etc as well as shop, and not just at night but throughout the weekend.

“But whatever else was going on in city centre regeneration retail was always the magnet. In the UK we like our retail. Enough urban planners and politicians grasped the notion that ‘going to the shops’ was and is a major part of the lives of many ordinary people, especially women. It was a constant, a given, aspirational consumerism that crossed class and culture. Through the past two decades we created a quality experience around it and our cities thrived. Whatever else might change people would always ‘go to the shops’, wouldn’t they? Well, no and it is having a significant effect in our cities. UK commentators have focused on the recession and falling consumer spending but more significant for the retail sector is the effect of web-based retail. Recent closures at Comet, Jessops and HMV have added to a range of familiar names that have been left behind by the shift to online spending. Retail staff report that ‘going to the shops’ has become a scouting mission – find the facts, touch the product, compare, contrast, get a little demonstration, then go home to order it online for a few quid less. Staff in fashion retail outlets report spending as much time dealing with internet returns as making sales. You don’t need to be chief economist at the IMF to work out the consequences. The trend won’t end with this recession either (whenever that may be). Recession confirms and accelerates market trends, rarely does it create them.”

imgres-1The paragraphs here shows the danger of this kind of black/white pontification. By overemphasizing the constancy of shopping in the first paragraph it sets up that now there have been changes it is catastrophic. I remember the recession of the 1980’s and that at the start of the 1990’s. Some chains of shops went out of business. Largely those who were the least secure economically or just those that were badly run. The last sentence is one of the few things correct about the piece. Recession means that economically under-performing businesses are more likely not to see the other side of the recession. The statement that web-based retail  is a more significant effect is supported with no evidence. Is it really the case that people are buying washing machines on the internet and not at Comet? Really? We then get another unsupported statement that all people do is go to the shops to check things out then go home and buy it on the net.

The crass mention of women though highlights the major error of this piece. Most people do not go shopping to buy something as imgres-2cheaply as possible. Last weekend was my birthday and after eating lunch we went to a nearby record shop on a whim. between two of us we ended up with three records and had a great time looking at different records, showing them to each other and talking about them. When I lived in the southern town I often worked on Saturday and we’d go out or lunch which was often followed by some shopping. Done for the fun of it. I could probably have got the records cheaper on eBay, I would always have been able to get what I bought after my lunch cheaper elsewhere but it was the social aspect of shopping. I have just lost a large amount of weight which my existing shirts do not reflect. When paid last month and this month I’ve bought a couple of new shirts. In one case because I lusted after it in the window of the shop as I passed. You cannot do that on the internet. Another tow shirts I bought because I saw the shops were having a sale, I went in and found shirts I wanted at a reasonable price. One of the shops sends me details by email, I could have bought from them online but I preferred to go in the shop, look at what was available, try the shirts on and buy them.

There was a lot of similar hand wringing when Woolworths departed the High Street, well in the UK. In September I was staying with family in Derbyshire and went into a shop I’d not experienced before, Wilkinson. They were great for the kind of toiletries which are hideously expensive here in France. I visited them again when in the UK staying with different family in Walthamstow where a visit to Wilko’s is an almost weekly event. Just as one of life’s certainties is death, another is that as one dies another is born.

“In Reading, one of the UK’s leading retail centres at a highly successful 90s city centre regeneration that has punched above its weight in the good times has seen a marked increase in vacant and available (on the market) retail space since 2009 (2).

YEAR VACANT AVAILABLE
Q4 2009 6.72% 4.69%
Q4 2010 9.03% 7.01%
Q4 2011 10.97% 8.93%
Q4 2012 11.13% 10.03%

While still below the UK average this trend should worry local policy makers, landlords and city centre business operators. The challenges they face are clear:

  • If the magnet for the city centre economies is losing its pull, how do we maintain the health of our cities?
  • How do major retailers respond to the challenge of web commerce?
  • How do national governments and the EU deal with tax sheltering multi-nationals who undercut local trade and put nothing back into communities?
  • What does it mean for property owners, investors and landlords when there is increasing vacancy in relatively new properties?

And aside from the more obvious economic consequences, what does this say for the quality of leisure experience when diversity is sucked out of city centre commerce? What does it do to our social lives? Two experiences brought this home to me: going to a major department store to purchase a lamp advertised in their mailshot only to find stock levels were so poor we were told to order online; and seeking in vain a pair of boot laces (off and on trying around fifteen stores) only to resort to Amazon.

If our city centres are not to enter a new period of crisis and decline creative thinking will be needed on many levels to adjust to these powerful market trends.”

A look at the number of empty properties in the last recession would give similar figures. More important than raw numbers though is the question of where the empty properties are. Are they in the prime retail spaces or in secondary? A much more important piece of information is footfall. The number of people visiting a place. What’s happened to that in the major and secondary shopping ares? As for the questions, well the first is an ‘if’ question so we have not received any evidence in the piece that the magnet for the city centres is losing its pull. In response to the second by selling what people want in a place they want to go to to buy it. The third question is not just restricted to retail, it applies throughout the economy and the fourth is not as obvious as it seems as the way the system works having property empty is not always a problem for a landlord or owner, when it’s retail, as it is when it’s other property. The two finishing anecdotes just reinforce that those retailers that survive will be those which sell things people want and have it available. The message of the much more thoughtful first piece:

What happens after the great retail clear-out?

url“Not long ago Oxford Street had ten book shops. Now it has none – unless you count WH Smith. Not long ago it also had half a dozen places you could buy records. It now has just one – and a sorry, understocked specimen it is at the moment. Records and books are fast disappearing from our retail environment. You no longer encounter them on the way to get a sandwich. They enter most people’s lives as noughts and ones or via the sturdy cardboard Amazon package. I wonder whether they’ll come back. Obviously not on the same level but maybe at a level enough to sustain some manufacture, distribution and retail, many notches below the mad over-supply of ten years ago. We always cherish things just as they’re about to slip away altogether. People had been gaily chucking away vinyl for years before they realised that this redundant, fragile format was about to be reborn as a soulful antique. When I did a programme for Radio Four about bootlegs a few years back there was reputedly only one record deck in the whole of the BBC. Now they’re ordering them up like there’s no tomorrow. Even CDs are now starting to feel just a little bit precious, which never happened before. This is bound to be more the case as new CDs and books become less visible and more expensive, as they’re surely bound to do as the number of retail outlets shrinks and Amazon, having taken control of the market, decides to push the price. I was in Waterstone’s in Piccadilly on Saturday, which is a pretty civilised place to buy books. I saw a book I was interested in. It was £9.99. I looked it up on the Amazon app on my phone. They had it for £6.89.On two occasions recently I’ve walked out of independent book shops which didn’t have what I asked for and hadn’t heard of it either, stood on the pavement outside and ordered from Amazon from my phone. Both times I was thinking “I hope they’re watching.”In Waterstone’s I bought the copy in the shop. It’s a nice environment, easy to navigate and the staff were pleasant. But more important than they, they had it. That’s the clincher.I don’t expect to be able to find comprehensive book stores on every corner. A handful in the centre of London would probably do me fine. I would be perfectly happy with that.”

Two pieces on retail, the last quoted thoughtful and reflective upon experience, both good and bad. The other trying to bend the facts to fit the black and white pontificating, which they don’t, and then ignoring a whole part of the subject. The piece on Reading shows the ignorance and poor judgement which explains why the writer ran away from involvement in politics in the town, just before being run out of the place, after the debacle and lack of judgement that was the one-way IDR. I know who I will turn to for insight and intelligent commentary.

Alsace hardcore

17/01/2013

I haven’t posted about the fact it’s snowing because, it’s Alsace it’s what happens in the winter. P1110883I guess the closest I came was through hinting at it in the post yesterday showing the planters on our balcony with a covering of snow. The first picture shows the courtyard of our flats, notice the covering of snow, it is not melting, it must be cold – probably below zero.

Picture 2 shows the flat across the courtyard from us. You will notice that they have both P1110884windows wide open. On a day when the apple weather app. on my mp3 device, there are other mp3 devices available, shows the temperature as -3 and The Weather Channel app. has the temperature at -1 but feeling like -6 then big style respect to the Alsace hardcore.

Christmas Part I, or what we did in our holidays

11/01/2013

This week I returned to Strasbourg from three weeks in the UK, seeing family and friends for Christmas and seeing the New Year in. If there was a theme for the period it was that we generally did the undoable.

dante%20gabriel%20rossetti%20lady%20lilith%20core_0The first day was spent looking round Walthamstow and the market, particularly to the good value store, and then on Friday we went to the Tate to see the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition. There were some fabulous paintings, a lot featuring women with long red hair, and I learned a lot about the movement, particularly on the impact they had on art, I hadn’t known before they were influential upon the Impressionists. The rest of the day was spent in London before meeting up with a friend who had recently left Strasbourg for Walthamstow.

searchSaturday saw us leave Walthamstow, via the fantastic and well worth visiting William Morris Gallery for more red-headed women, furniture wall paper etc, and headed to the Barbican for Complicite’s version of Bulgarkov’s Master and Margarita. Despite there having been earlier stage versions of the book it was held to be unstageable. Well it was three hours of fantastic theatre and definitely bought the story to life on the stage in an engaging and interesting way, was well acted and the time flew by.

Then I was with my parents for a week and JTO braved the flooding in the west country to celebrate Christmas with her mother, the first time we have been apart at Christmas for almost two decades! I went to see Reading FC play Swansea which was a dire game but they did what had largely been undoable for them before and avoided losing. After a really good night out in Reading with some friends and JTO going to visit her newly arrived granddaughter it was off to celebrate New Years Eve.

SNCF drop a bollock

16/12/2012

Having booked tickets with the French national rail carrier, SNCF, they have my email address and SNCFsend me occasional emails letting me know about good deals etc. Just as any sensible company does their marketing. However, their recent email (above) was a a bit of a mistake. They tried to entice me onto the train to visit Christmas Markets. Living in Strasbourg, the ‘Capital of Christmas’ why would I want to go anywhere else to a Christmas Market?

OK the city is rammed – it was very difficult walking to the pub to see City defeat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday due to the large number of people, and, I may wish to visit other markets, having got bored of Strasbourg’s? So lets take a look at where they suggest I go, one of the historic ones in Dresden, Bautzen or Vienna? One of the major attractions, say Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart or Augsburg? No, of course not they are all in Germany or Austria and this is the French national rail company. The choice I was offered are:

SNCF II

Metz? Seriously, Metz? When it’s so close to Meh? But more important where do they say Metz is? Alsace. As any fule know Metz is in Lorraine. Oh dear SNCF.

Christmas is coming.

31/10/2012

The Goose is getting fat. Yes we all know the rhyme but we’re not into November yet so why write about Christmas?

Whilst making the journey that was the subject of my last post I came across  the Strasbourg council workmen putting up the Christmas decorations last Friday.

Then when out for a walk on Saturday I came across the pictured decorations in the Petite France area which had already been put up.

I couldn’t help but think that it still being October was too early for the decorations to be put up.

Then on Monday a friend on facebook posted a picture of the fir-tree from the Vosges being erected in Place Kleber.

Strasbourg styles itself as the Christmas capital and with the World famous Christmas Market starting at the end of November I suppose it is necessary to get things ready earlier than it would be for any other city. People are going to be arriving at the end of November and expect to see the decorations all in place. The city has a lot of Christmas decorations so they take time to put up and that’s why they start what I think is rather early.

Here’s the picture of the tree being lifted into place.


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