Photo 2015

Another year has almost passed us by. Where doe the time go? This year it was spent in London, Istanbul, Berlin, the south coast of England and at various country estates around the south. All carefully documented with my camera. I had a little look back and choose my favourite/better snaps of the last 12 months. And so I present to you, in no particular order, a selection of 18 shots that I liked the best. The next Ansel Adams I am clearly not. But I enjoy getting out and photographing what I see. And then processing the images into something more interesting when I get home…

P Marks The Spot

Normally when travelling by myself, I land at the airport with nothing more than a Lonely Planet guidebook and a completely open agenda. I had just two full days in Berlin though, so I planned more carefully. I didn’t have a day or so to orientate myself to my surroundings. I planned an itinerary and booked the required tickets. First up was a walking tour, booked through Viator with Discover Berlin. A four hour march past all the key sites in Berlin’s history. The first part focused on pre 20th century Berlin. The latter part on the World War and Cold War. The guide was enthusiastic and interesting, which helps.

download

I returned to one of the locations the next day. A very nondescript car park, just a few hundred metres from the Reichstag. It’s a car park because its difficult to build on this spot. Underneath lies the Fuhrerbunker, where Hitler made his last stand. There is a sign explaining the location and describing the layout of the bunker, 8 metres below the surface. This only went up in 2006, in time for the World Cup.You can’t access the bunker today. Over the years there have been efforts to destroy it and/or fill it in with concrete. There’s a fascinating collection of photographs by Rober Conrad, who disguised himself as a construction worker in 1987 and went down into the bunker to document what remained.

23799197396_71d45e290a_k

It’s a place worthy of sitting for a while. To picture the scene, seventy years ago. The Nazi regime was in its death throes, but Adolf Hitler still strolled this patch of ground from time to time. Have you seen the film Downfall? It’s a masterpiece, well worth a couple of hours of your time. It’s based entirely on the last days and hours of the regime, covering the moment that Hitler finally did the right thing and put a bullet through his brain.

23198511723_91de5d5ad9_k

Historians have placed the pit where the bodies of Mr and Mrs Hitler were partially burned to be by the first parking sign in this photo. The irony of this being a wheelchair accessible parking space is not lost on me. The only way to make it a more appropriate parking space would be if it were reserved for black, gay, Jewish wheel chair users. Dr Goebbels has it worse. They built the Monument to Murdered Jews over his bunker. Karma.

Everything possible has been done by the authorities to make this site uninteresting and devoid of stand out features. To remove the blemish of the Third Reich from the streets of the city. To say that they have attempted to whitewash history or pretend it didn’t happen is going too far and is unfair. This is a complicated and touchy subject.

Berlin

The German language is a pretty blunt instrument of communication. The vocabulary is direct and to the point. So I hope the natives won’t object that I utilize that straightforward approach in my opening description of Berlin – the Ugly City. If Paris is the city of light, then Berlin  is the city of darkness. A largely brutalist expression of architecture in both the east and west parts of the city. Although, for obvious reasons, more so in the east. But Berlin is about function rather than finery or frivolity. So that’s okay. And whilst giants of literature and science have plied their trade here, most visitors come for the history, not the culture. That is certainly why I visited this week.

23716688092_7d363c09f6_k

It’s a history dominated by a single man, and the evidence of his existence is etched into every square metre of the city centre. Although you’ll see only a few sign posts acknowledging that fact. The architecture is the first giveaway. The modern concrete blocks, laid down in the 50s, 60s and 70s to fill the holes made by tens of thousands of tons of British and US high explosives, dropped from the skies, day and night, for several years. With the additional destruction of the Soviet attack, the Battle of Berlin, thrown in for good measure. The end result was something of a modern version of Carthage.

23457289479_59af162de3_k

Here and there, an older building survives. Or rather, was restored. But they still bear the scars of war. Magnificent columns riddled with bullet holes. Monuments so blackened from the soot of fires that cleaning them is not possible. Then there is the Reichstag, the crowning glory of German reunification, risen from the ashes of 1945, but with constant reminders of the buildings violent history. Photograph displays throughout the interior show the story of the Reichstag. Russian graffiti has been preserved. Then there is that magnificent dome on top, the contrast between the old and the new.

23825176285_8c39630741_k

The history that visitors come to see doesn’t end in 1945, of course. In the eastern half of the city, the swastika was simply replaced with the hammer and sickle, the war changed from world to cold, and an oppressive and brutal leadership  carried on the work of their predecessors. Most of the key sites in Berlin lie in the eastern half. What was until 25 odd years ago, the capital of East Germany. Architecturally, an even bigger mess than the western side. I think it is fair to say that the city is yet to fully recover from either the World War or Cold War, both physically and mentally.

23457148549_e1f998c509_k

Berlin can also claim to be the birthplace of modern political correctness. The art of conversation without offence. Given the very delicate nature of the city’s history, it is not surprising that this is so. How to discuss the finer points of the Gestapo and Stasi without upsetting anyone? There are laws outlawing holocaust denial and use of Nazi symbols. Like a  recovering alcoholic, there is the fear that just one sip from the forbidden cup will see Berlin swathed in fascist emblems once more.

23198306293_16bb034b0d_k

I pre-booked a tour of the Reichstag. We were guided round by a grandfatherly figure with as monotone a voice as you will ever hear, and a habit of finishing ever sentence with ‘ya’. He was informative. But he did something that I didn’t hear from any other German during my short stay. When talking about the war, he used we and us, rather than they and them. Germans instead of Nazis. I noticed it, but whether anyone else did I cannot say. But he left his feelings open to interpretation by doing so. When reading signs or listening to Germans on the subject of the war, there seems to be a deliberate effort at disassociation. And I can’t say that I blame them.

Click here to see my Berlin album on Flickr.

 

I Am Ten

This blog has been knocking around a few years now. The last five years it’s been maintained more out of habit that anything else. And it’s a habit that is becoming less frequent with time. But it’s been going more than ten years. So the title is not about the blog. If you were loitering in this part of the world wide web back in my Mexico days, you might remember that this blog focused on three main subjects. Documentation of my adventures in Mexico. Dubious sponsored posts for dodgy Rolex watches and vaginal rejuvenation surgery. My turtles, and their adventures. Well….as far as turtles living in an inflatable pool in a back yard can have adventures.

It’s tricky to write on those three subjects with any regularity these days. I no longer live in Mexico for one. And the sponsored post market has dried up. Perhaps all the vaginas have now been rejuvenated. And the turtles have gone on to new homes. But perhaps, just perhaps, you are wondering whatever became of them. I keep in touch once every so often with the chap who took on Bob, Baby, Itchy and Scratchy. You might remember that Bob was the first of the turtles. The daddy of the pond. My favourite. I think he quite liked me too. Maybe.

Bob is now ten years old. There we are, the title of the post makes sense now, huh? In human years, he’s about 20ish. About time he got a job instead of lounging about in the sun all day. He won’t of course, but he’s doing very well, as are the other three. I believe they still get their favourite treat of barbacoa every now and again. But anyway, he’s got plenty more years in him if all goes well. In captivity, the little critters can live for 35 to 40 years. So if you’re thinking of a new pet, but are tired of the heartbreak of having to bury them every decade or so, well a turtle is for you. Look after it, and it’ll be an heirloom that you pass on. They’re quite good diggers actually, so they could even help bury you.

I just thought you might like to know….

4425599105_2f998a4559_b

Tis The Season

In Mexico things were much simpler. There was rainy season and there was dry season. There wasn’t the world of difference between the two, really. A bit cooler in the mornings and evenings in dry season. And you’d get an hour or two of rain in the evening in, predictably, the rainy season. Otherwise, it would be sunny and warm. Just how I like it. There was no real autumn, winter or spring. Not that an Englishman would recognise. The new shoots would be well underway before last years leaves had fully fallen.

However, I liked to add a third season to the traditional two seasons. Jacaranda season. If you were going to be persnickety, you’d point out that this is spring. But the Jacarandas spread such a magical lavender sheen to the sky and a carpet of lavender leaves on the ground. It just seemed to wonderful to simply refer to it as ‘spring’.

In the UK we have real seasons. There is often debate as to the when, exactly, each season is. I like to apply logic and simplicity. March, April and May are spring. June, July and August are summer. September, October an November are autumn. The remainder are winter. Miserable, bleak, wet, dark, depressing, never-ending winter. I hate it. There’s no time of year when I wish I was back in Mexico more than in winter.

But perhaps the UK needs an extra season too. December is most definitely winter. Yet it’s one of my favourite months. It’s cold, but the cold still has novelty value. And the towns and cities are bathed in lights, glitter, sparkly things, baubels, decorated trees and cheesy music. Christmas deserves to be a season all of its own. After all, the old song does state, ‘Tis the season to be jolly…’. Thus I have evidence to support my claim.

London is the brightest and jolliest of all the towns and cities to visit. I’ve noticed more and more places taking advantage of all the festivity to bring the punters in, with illuminated displays. We visited Kew Gardens. I rather imagine that they have a tough time drumming up business in the middle of winter. Mostly because all their main attractions look pretty much dead. Can you imagine a zoo trying to get customers in to look at animal corpses? Exactly.

But….add a million fairy lights, dozens of strings of LEDs, some pots of fire, some Santas and light the famous greenhouse up in seasonal shades of red, white and green. Or, as Mrs P and I preferred to think, the colours of the Mexican flag. Serve up some mulled wine and chestnuts, and hey presto – you got yourself a tourist attraction. To see all the photos I took, click here to be transported to Flickr.

 

The Steam Train

The technology might be centuries old. The engines might be hopelessly outdated and unreliable. But there are still plenty of steam powered trains in the UK. Dozens of heritage railways keep the old chuggers chugging. And plenty of people are still enthralled at the concept of burning coal in a boiler to produce sufficient power to propel a lump of metal down a track. Enthralled enough to come out in their dozens to watch one come by.

A steam train came through my station the other day. The photo below may deceive you. Or it may not, depending on your powers of observation. It’s going backwards, not forwards. It had broken down earlier. The paying passengers had to endure the ignominy of being towed by a more modern diesel locomotive, which is out of shot. It didn’t matter to the train spotters though. Of which, it seems, I am now one. Oh, the shame…

IMG_0328-2

Syria

We’re at war. Again. Sort of. I’m not really sure why our latest campaign in Syria is being called a war. Obviously there is a war happening on the ground. We’re not participating in that. We’re just dropping bombs on distance targets from a safe distance.  But anyhow. I have a few thoughts.

  • Why are we bombing Syria? Well, there’s a very simple answer to this. Its what we do. It’s what we’ve done for hundreds of years. It’s what we’ll continue to do until someone gives us a sound thrashing and puts a stop to it. Even then, it’ll probably only be a temporary stop. It’s in the national psyche. It’s tradition, pride, vanity. If there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on someone in the world, we feel obliged to throw our hat in the ring. Especially if the French are involved. You think this is a ridiculous explanation? The world is, more often than not, ridiculous. Besides, I have evidence. A map of the world. Everything in red is a nation invaded or occupied by the UK at some stage. I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did Luxembourg get away with it??

w704

  • I voted Labour at the last election. I’ll be voting for someone else at the next election, unless Corbyn is replaced. I like him. His analysis of a problem is often spot on. He is principled. He is eloquent. He says what needs to be said. But his solutions, when he actually has one, are usually ideological, impractical and devoid of consideration for all other connected factors. The chap is an activist. He is not a leader. He demonstrated that last week. He is 100% against bombing in Syria. Yet, rather than force Labour MPs to vote against military action, he gave his colleagues a free vote. Why? Because his colleagues were going to ignore him anyway and he didn’t want to look weak. He’s not in control of the party and even if he were, his continued leadership is almost certain to see another Tory win in 2020. Who might replace him? Some would now say that Hilary Benn is a candidate. Picture yourself in the year 2020 at a UK/US convention. PM Hilary and Pres Hillary. Cartoonists are going to have a field day.
  • The argument in the UK as to whether we should bomb Syria seems to be devoid of substance on both sides. The Right believe they can bomb ISIS into oblivion. The Left want a political solution. A political solution? Who are they kidding? A political solution with who? Russia? Assad? Turkey? The Kurds? That’s like sitting at at table with a bowl of dog shit and declaring that you are going to make a cake. Ain’t nobody gonna be swallowing that, I’m afraid. As far as I see it, there are two types of war. Total war, which is the one we most want to avoid. The other type involves running around trying to put out fires, but doing little to actually stop the firestarter. Which is also unpleasant, but probably better than sitting back and watching the fires spread and burn some more. But when all is said and done, there is no answer to this (or many other) of the world’s problems. Such is life.

9640363412_cf560c799e_k

  • No one seems to be asking the most important question. It’s a simple one. Can our bombs kill radicalized terrorists more quickly than the bombs radicalize new terrorists? There’s got to be someone doing the maths…

13497235833_a2deedd7c5_k

  • I’ve also noticed that those people I speak to who are most in favour of bombing Syria are also the least likely to approve of us taking in refugees. There has to be a formula out there to calculate the bombs to refugee ratio. Factor in tonnage of bombs dropped, the period of time over which they are dropped and the density of the receiving population per square mile. Plus a few other  contributory factors. We can then present the maths to fans of the bomb and explain the concept of cause and effect in numerical form. Getting them to understand the concept of ‘responsibility’ is another matter altogether…

20201763993_248a5d27ce_k

  • Putin is nuts. He may sometimes make a valid point. But I suspect that’s by chance rather than design. The Turks are also nuts. They are doing more to prolong and aggravate the Syrian conflict than other nation. They have definitely occupied the moral low ground. I read somewhere recently that Turkey and Russia have waged war against each other more times throughout history than any other pair of countries. Although producing such a stat is a very dubious art. But anyway.  They’re not buddies at the best of times. That should be everyone’s biggest concern, perhaps.

19300201768_87e8553479_k

  • I’ve long needed a post relevant for my warplane photos.

PS. We’re still bombing Iraq, dontcha know?

 

The Apple Market

DSCF8300

There is a magical place in London, where all your technological dreams come true. Staffed by pixies and leprechauns, who have brought with them the finest gifts from the end of the rainbow to sell to those of us lucky enough to know the whereabouts of this secret marketplace. Freshly cut bouquests of iPads, posies of iPod Nanos and bunches of iPhones adorn the stalls. If you’re feeling flush, perhaps you might be interested in an extra special iMac arrangement, or maybe, as it’s Christmas, you’ll be tempted by a wreath made out of purest gold MacBooks.

Alternatively, I’ve been for a day to London, stopping by at Covent Garden, to enjoy the Christmas lights. Take your pick. Whichever tale sounds best to you, that’s the true story.

On another note, WordPress have changed their quick post editor. Again. I found the first version to be a bit ‘meh’. This latest update is awful. The full editor is still available, but I am a little tired of WordPress’ determination to always take me to the quick editor by default.

The Three Month Review

I’ve completed three months of service in my new job and, as is the process of my employer, I’ve recently had my three month review. How did it go? We’ll get to that later. Firstly, I’ll give a three month review of my employer. Finding a job you enjoy is tough work. I’ve been trying to get my foot in on the trains for several years, and there were a three or four unsuccessful interviews before I finally cracked it. I’ve struck lucky with this job – it is the best of the bunch that I’d applied for. I’m a relief ticket office clerk.

In short, this means I cover shifts across a stretch of line when the normal clerk is on holiday or sick. I like the variety. I like the early mornings too. Some days I’ll need to be out of the house by 5am. I’m not a fan of waking up that early. But once up, it’s nice to have the world to myself for a couple of hours.

I enjoy the face to face interaction with customers too. It’s a significant improvement on dealing with them at the end of a telephone, as was the case at my last employer. Of course, you get the occasional upset customer. But most are happy to have someone help them through the confusing minefield that is the rail ticketing system.

I like the pay too. It’s another significant improvement compared to my last employer. Well paid overtime combined with various allowances meant that I got paid more in ‘extras’ last month than I’d have previously been paid for an entire month’s worth of labour.And of course, I’ve joined the union. I’m probably a little bit to the right, politically speaking, of most of my comrades. But I do reap the reward in pay and terms that comes with working in a unionized industry. It’s only right that I contribute my dues.

My employer runs a tight ship. But they are realistic in their demands. There are no threats or scowls when an honest mistake is made. There’s recognition that we’re all human. Mistakes happen. Just don’t make the same mistake over and over and over again. That’s a fair request and one I can deliver. It’s a tightly run ship and my ship mates act as a team. Once more, an improvement over my last employer.

Then there are the travel perks. And they are truly bountiful. Not every clerk makes full use of them. I shall. It works like this. I get free travel on the network I am employed by. I also get free travel on another network that is also owned by my employer. I also get a coupon allowing 5 lots of free travel over a 48 hour period on a third network that is majority owned by my employer. The other networks? I have a card which entitles me to a 75% discount on all other rail travel. After a years service, I’ll also get discounted travel on Eurostar and around much of the EU. Best of all, whatever I get, Mrs P also gets, as my spouse. Although she is limited to leisure travel only.

We’ve already been to Edinburgh for a weekend away. I’d never been to Scotland before and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Edinburgh is a magnificent city. We’ll go back next summer. We shall take the Caledonian Sleeper up to Fort William via Glasgow and return via Edinburgh. In between time, we have trips to York, Axminster, Exter, Birmingham and Liverpool planned. I shall make the most of my travel perks.

DSCF8256

I’m very happy with my new job, in case I’d left any room for doubt. The good news is that my review suggested that they are equally as happy to have me there. Sure, the overtime, extra cash and many places to see does mean I have less time to do some other things – such as blogging. Such is life, it’s a small sacrifice. If you’d like to see the full set of photos from Edinburgh then, as usual, just click here.

Viva Paris

Some people here in the UK don’t seem to get why Brits seem more sympathetic to Parisians than they do to Lebanese and Palestinians. Perhaps you’ve noticed this elsewhere in the West. I wouldn’t have thought that this phenomena wouldn’t be too hard to grasp, but it does seem to be beyond the intellect of a surprisingly large number of people. Hands up who has been to Paris? And to Beirut? The Gaza Strip? I think I see more hands for Paris.

Hands up who envisages London turning into the next Beirut? No one? How about a Paris style atrocity occurring in Covent Garden and Kensington? Sadly, there’s every chance it will happen.  We can relate to Paris. We know Paris. We live just a couple of hours by train from Paris. It’s not, fortunately, a normal feature of Paris life. It still has shock value. We worry about being the ‘next Paris’. Comprende? Failing that, why are you whining about Beirut and Palestine and not Honduras or Mexico?

I’m tired of people of all ideologies smugly claiming some sort of personal victory, valediction or bragging rights every time an atrocity is committed. You predicted this? Really?? Goddamn, just give me next weeks lottery numbers right now, pendejo. Right wingers gloat ‘I told you so’ in their misinformed, prejudiced rants about the dangers of multiculturalism. Yet supported, and still support, the actions that actually led us down this path.

The left wingers who defend Islam as a religion of peace are just as bad. There is no such thing as a religion of peace, Islamic, Christian or Buddhist. The first two in particular boast many scriptures urging violence. At the end of the day, the path of peace or violence is a personal choice for each follower.

Tragedy really does bring the worst out in the sickos of the world. Whether it’s Donald Trump and his fan club claiming that more guns are needed to solve the problem, or others who justify (or simply mitigate) the murders in Paris with the atrocities committed in the Middle East. It may be true that 9/11, 7/7 and 13/11 are everyday Gazan life. But this isn’t a competition. And then there are the conspiracy theorists. Who are perhaps the most deluded, poorly informed and ignorant members of our society. They wouldn’t know reality if it slapped them in the face.

I don’t know where we go from here, other than more of the same. But I have decided that an awful lot of people shouldn’t be allowed to have opinions if they can’t exercise some rational thought and responsibility. In the age of the internet, words have become more dangerous than sticks and stones. Viva Paris.

P6098425

The Jacksons in Hyde Park

There aren’t many bands who can lose their front man and still go onto bigger and better things. As a general rule, once the main guy has departed, things go sharply downhill. Pink Floyd and Genesis spring to mind as the exceptions to the rule. Otherwise, bands just end up with the hangers on desperately hanging on. They turn into virtual tribute bands almost by default. Unless you’re talking about Boney M, in which case the tribute band contains (some of) the original band members whilst the ‘real’ band contains none of them. Odd. But I digress. I’m talking music today, so let’s get back on track.

Last Saturday, Mrs P and I went to Prom in the Park, a music festival of sorts put on by BBC Radio 2. This is not your tents, grunge and ganja in a field sort of festival. This is a festival for civilised people who prefer the scenery of Hyde Park and flushing toilets to the sea of mud and urine of a Somerset farm. We took our folding chairs and a posh picnic, freshly sliced and diced from the delicatessen of Whole Foods Market. We had a fine time.

DSCF8081

We watched the Mavericks open the show. They only ever had the one hit, so they kindly played that and then buggered off. Oh, I’m being unfair. They played a couple more songs. Which were pleasant, but not really radio material. Then a lady came and blew her trumpet. Four guys then sang a collection of Frank Sinatra hits, and were pretty good too. Until they sang one of their own songs. After than a lady came and sang a bit of opera. What I really remember about her, is that her photo in the program suggested she had the figure of Kate Moss. On stage, she was more Nigella Lawson. After Christmas, rather than just before summer.

And finally at some time around 8pm, the main act took to the stage. The Jacksons. Now, I started this off by suggesting that most bands who lose their front man, the big cheese, the main man, well…they tend to lose their mojo. Has any band ever had a bigger lead singer than the Jacksons? I’ve given this some thought, and I’m going to state, with some confidence, that the answer to this question is ‘no’.

DSCF8109

Let’s be honest, the combined talents of Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie are not going to cover up the fact that little Michael is missing. So where does that leave his siblings? They’re not what they used to be. But they are somehow more than a tribute band. I found it tough to define them.

A couple of days later, I had the answer. The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain saw the biggest display of WWII planes since the end of the war. Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancasters galore. It was a mighty sight, if you were lucky to be under the flight path. These planes might not have their original pilots, and they might well be on their last legs. But everyone still wants to see them. It’s the history and heritage that they stand for, and the story they tell.

I know. It’s a strange analogy. The Jacksons and old fighter planes. But hey, there is some sound logic behind this. After all, the band have already released two albums named after famous old British ships and motor bicycles*. Perhaps, if they are up to creating a new album, or have some old, as yet unrecorded material lying around, then just perhaps they might yet call it Spitfire.

*I am aware that Victory and Triumph were probably not named after famous old British ships and motor bicycles. But hey ho.

Viva Mexico Cabrones!

A very happy Mexican Independence Day to all my amigos and amigas. Is it really five years since the Bicentenario? My, how time flies. I wish I were there to celebrate, but alas it is not to be. Still, I send greetings from the UK, which was, of course, the first European country to recognise Mexican independence from the Spanish. Admittedly, this probably had more to do with us wanting to antagonise the Spanish that any anti-colonial sentiment, but ce la vie.

Going Underground

Adios Vulcan

In the 1950s, Britain decided they needed some shiny new planes to deliver the country’s nuclear bombs to carefully chosen locations east of Berlin. Britain was still a world  superpower of sorts. In the air, she was still the superpower. So in keeping wih that status, the decision was made to put in orders for three different aircraft. The Victor, the Valiant and the Vulcan. The V Force. At ridiculous expenses, hundreds of planes were built and put into the air just in time to coincide with the development of effective anti-aircraft missiles and the decision to house the nuclear deterrent inside submarines instead.

To understand why the decision was made at all, you’d do worse that watch the recent two part television series, Cold War Hot Jets – two hours of aviation history from a British perspective. One things that becomes quickly apparent – of the three types of bomber, there was one that represented the cutting edge of technology. It was the riskiest of the three projects. Ultimately, it was the most successful. Once anti-aircraft missiles had become an established and unmitigated threat, there was just one that was capable of switching from high altitude high speed flight, to speeding along just metres off of the ground, under the radar.

Luckily, it was also the most beautiful of the three planes. It was, of course, the Vulcan. If you’ve seen it in the flesh, you’ll never forget it. It’ll appear in silence. Then the noise from the four engines catches up. It won’t just deafen you. The ground will vibrate and numb your senses.Only the Concorde compares. Although Concorde had a slightly less deadly job to do. Not that a Vulcan was ever called upon to fulfil a nuclear raid. Indeed, for all the money spent on the V Force bombers, only one ever supplied an explosive delivery in anger.

20796496746_e6ee689559_k

Ironically, in 1981, the Argentines wanted to buy some Vulcans. The British government initially agreed to sell them a single bomber. A few months later, the Falkland Islands were invaded, and a Vulcan was duly sent to Argentina’s military forces. Albeit in a different manner to how they had originally planned to take delivery. One Vulcan and a fleet of refuelling aircraft flew from the UK to the Falklands, dropped some bombs on the runway and then returned home. It was the longest bombing raid in history until relatively recently, an there’s a documentary on YouTube that tells the story. Despite the successful sortie, the Vulcans were retired just a couple of years later.

There is just one Vulcan still flying these days, making appearances at airshows around the country. It is everyone’s favourite. Every year, there are fears that the Vulcan may not return next year. It is costly to keep airworthy, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep this 50 year old plane in the sky. But every year the money is found for another tour of air show duty. However, the end is now nigh, it seems. The owners have announced that this year is the final year of the Vulcan.

My home town of Bournemouth has one of the largest free air shows in Europe. I go every year. I pick my day carefully – which day does the Vulcan fly? I got a decent viewing point this year and snapped away with my camera at what was, possibly, the Vulcan’s final display over the golden sands of Bournemouth. Farewell old chap. We will miss you. Click here for the full photo set from last weekends show.

20636115669_5da44ac58f_k

Our Father, Who Art In Infamy

In school playgrounds, boys will often debate on which boys fathers could whup other boys fathers. If I remember rightly, the most common case made was with an argument that ran something along the lines of ‘my dad could beat up your dad’. But little boys eventually progress into big boys, and the competition revolves around what car their fathers drive. Ironic, really, that the boys who bragged about the Ferrari or Porsche in the drive way at home, probably didn’t have such ‘big’ dads after all. If you follow. But the pattern is clear. Boys find inspiration in their fathers. Or a curse. The latter of which is the point today.

Firstly, let’s pay a flying visit to Sherborne Castle, in the heart of the Dorset countryside. The castle itself is a ruin, destroyed in the civil war. But even by the time of it’s demise it had been replaced by a grand stately home. Castles were costly enterprises to run, and not quite so comfortable as modern brick and mortar mansions. Although you’ll find many of them keep the word castle in the name. A castle has far more street cred.

19635658124_434da5770a_k

The man who built the home at Sherborne did, from time to time, need a little something to boost to his credibility. His name, however, has survived the ravages of time and the weight of history. He gave us Brits not only his glorious Sherborne stately home, but also the potato and tobacco. He was, if you hadn’t already gathered, Sir Walter Raleigh. One time favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. The scourge of the Spanish armada, looting their ships for all the gold and silver he could lay his hands on. The reason that more than one Mexican used to refer to me as the pirate. And patron to the capital of North Carolina.

By all accounts, Raleigh loved Sherborne. He made every possible arrangement to ensure that it would remain as the family home for generations to come, starting with his son Walt, by placing it into a trust. He was a sensible chap, was Sir Walter. In those days, it wasn’t hard to fall foul of a new monarch and to lose the lot. And so it was to pass. Elizabeth died, and King James failed to take to Raleigh as his predecessor had done before him.

Unsurprisingly, Raleigh came to a bloody end with his neck at the wrong end of a swinging axe. His tobacco habit kept him company to the end, and the pipe he smoked on the scaffold is one of the exhibits in the house. Worse was to come however. Lawyers pored over the wording of the legal documents that formed the trust, protecting is from seizure. They found that a single, key, phrase had been omitted. And the house was seized. Walt Junior was turfed out on his ear. First born sons have always been regarded as a potential future threat by those who have wronged the father. It’s best to deal with the threat at the earliest convenient moment. For photos of Sherborne, click here.

20264083171_650a6485c3_k

I followed up our visit to Sherborne with an evening movie. About a young chap called Sebastian from Colombia. I suspect that no boy ever dared to suggest that their dad could beat up Sebastian’s dad. Well, you wouldn’t, would you? Young Seb’s daddy was, after all, Pablo Escobar. Life as the son of the world’s most famous narco-trafficker had its ups and downs. Mostly downs, while on the run. Millions of dollars packed in suitcases, but no way of getting to a shop to spend it.

The Sins Of My Father is a documentary film, with Sebastian as the focal point. He recounts life as a youngster, tells the inside story of his infamous pa and deals with the struggles that has ensued since Escobar was gunned down by the police. It’s a fascinating story told by a very credible and seemingly nice guy who builds up to a meeting between himself and the sons of men who were killed by his father. It’s one of the most interesting films I’ve watched in some time. It’s on Netflix too.

Two stories separated by nearly half a millenium, with a similar theme and equally sad endings for the children of the protagonists. Who’d have ever seen the link between Pablo Escobar and Sir Walter Raleigh? Although no one thinks about it, they’ve more in common than I’ve touched on today. Their hold on power, their political relationships, their trade of choice. One clearly caused more harm that the other. Tobacco, ultimately, has been a greater curse than heroin.

Explore the nightlife in Newcastle

Many poets have poetized the magic of the night. The revelry of nights in Newcastle have not been celebrated yet in poetry but have been given a high reputation. Newcastle was awarded the title of 2009 best UK party city for New Year’s Eve by the Times. This urban and vibrant vigorous city located on the north western bank of the River Tyne keeps on attracting more and more of those who wish to have an unforgettable night. I explored the nightlife of this wonderful city together with my cousins and some of their friends living in student accommodation Newcastle. Here is my report on the crazy nocturnal life in Newcastle.

  • The Bigg Market

This area has nothing to do with cultural time, chic and glamour. Here you will find cheap drinks, unashamed dancing, abandoned hilarity and people celebrating stag and hen parties. Despite the fact that there are more than two tens of pubs and bars, queues are rather common here. If your mission is not only drinking all night long, you may want to visit Italian or Indian restaurants.

  • The Diamond Strip

In case you are not fond of the above mentioned time-spending, the Diamond Strip will be the right area. Here you’ll meet for sure local celebrities and other VIPs. The Diamond Strip Florita’s, Madame Koo, Revolution, Bijoux, Perdu, Baby Lynch and Tup Tup Palace.

  • The Quayside

It is a historic part of Newcastle. Just picture the following scene, you sit at the table, sip a cocktail and feed your sight with stunning views of the river Tyne and bridges. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the most prominent of them. It rotates and has a shape of an eye which gives the impression of the eye opening. At nighttime the bridge is totally lit up. The Pitcher & Piano is the venue that is the nearest one to the river and allows you to witness such an awesome spectacle. Grey Street and Pilgrim Street will lead you to the Quayside. On your way you can pop in the bars to bars Al Vino, Bar Luga and the Lounge that will be definitely appreciated by cocktail lovers and enjoy one of the most beautiful streets.

  •  The Gate

This place owes its popularity to the proximity of indoor clubs and bars to each other. This complex has all required for a good fun under its roof, cinema, restaurants, bars, cafes and casino.  Tiger Tiger is one the largest venue and neighbors to other bars such as Sam Jack’s, Bar Bannatyne, the Keel Row, Beyond Bar & Grill and Players.

The nightlife of Newcastle does not yield an inch to daily activities.  It offers different bars for any taste and budget and amazing views.

15433092764_332de49671_o