Tuesday 2 December 2003
I’m back from Copenhagen. But before I launch into an account of our weekend there, here’s a new update from Penn:
Well as usual i hope that everyone is well and that things are bright and cheery seeing as you have entered the christmas month at home!!! I can’t tell you what an odd concept that is to me here, that it is christmas at home here they have put soem lights up in the street but that is pretty much it! What with the warm days (nights are bloody cold now) and the running around christmas seems like a million miles away.
Well i really do not know what to tell you all it has been an odd few weeks. I am sorry that the emails have not come to you all a little more regularly. It would seem that there have been problems with emails getting to some people with hotmail accounts so i have been sending emails but i have no idea what is and is not getting there! so apologies if i seeem to have been ignoring you. Things here have been a little eratic as have my emotions and i have been popping in to send the odd mails but could not really face having to look at what i was doing or try to decipeher what i am feeling about the whole trip. It’s difficult as you feel like you should be grateful for being in a place such as this and savouring every moment but there have been times when i have been absolutely desperate to come home and have had enough of the hardship that Nepal presents both to myself and for its citizens. I really do not know how i will feel when i get home. I know that i will be glad to be back but as to whether or not i will miss it i do not know. I now it will be a shock to be back in the luxuries which are usually routine everyday things for me and i am a little nervous about how i will find it all.
SO where shall i start – lets start with the reason i am here – the shopping !!! No only joking my kids!
As you will see i have attached pictures for you
Green fingers – this is painting the kids hands so that they can make the leaf imprints on the wall
Finished wall – this is the picture i took of the kids when we showed them the first wall finsihed
Leafy Hands – a picture of me putting the kids hands prints on the tree
Green Olis – this is Mr oli (the homes cheif officer – real sweety ) and i after he has doen his hand print!
So the tree of life wall is done and i have to say that it was a lot of fun doing it. the kids were fascinated by the paint being put on their hands and it was bliss as i have not seem them so quiet and in awe before or after the event and believe me they are very manic and very noisy!! So 54 kids cames in had their hand painted and made their print o n the wall and then had their little hands washed all to produce the lovely tree!!
Now you would think that i came away elated after this day but oddly i did not. i came away feeling quite numb and a bit shocked really. At the time ( I am feeling fine now) i just felt dispondent and confused. I was thinking how on earth did i think painting one tree was going to help these kids!! I have found out alot about what the childrens future here and it is not necessarily good – some paretns will come out of prison and have no money so will sell their children to child labour, parents will also pay to have their children arrested as it is cheaper than trying to bring them up in this economical situation etc etc and i came away that day with a heavy heart and i felt like the merriment that day was so temporary and i would (still)like to be able to look at those children and tell them that in some way thinsg would be ok. Of course not all children will have a bad future but Nepal is so blooyd corrupt you just do not know what will happen!! There are now 53 kids at the home as little 3 year old Babita has gone back to her mother. But there was no joy when she left the home and you can see the question of “what will happen now” in everyones eyes. As some of you may be aware ;o) i am quite a forthright person and i found it so hard not to pin the mother down and ask her what she had planned for Babita… I feel fine now and i see that what little i can do here will help them in some way but i also feel that the little I have done is a drop in the ocean to what actually needs doing and i think this bit of sadness will remain with me forever and because of it i am changed – i could not tell you how i am changed just that i have been…
Being with these children makes you continually question yourself and your patience for the rest of the western world diminishes – it is hard to explain what happens here to a person who comes to stay here and to the poeple who live here and i will not say too much more other than i will try and convey as much as i can when i get home.
As the pressure has been getting a little much i have been trying to do as much with my weekend as possible to lift my spirits. This has included hiring a motorbike and driving out of Kathmandu now this may not seem likee much but here the traffic is nuts!! they drive in any directiion and make four lanes of taffic in a road that we would not considere driving down at home!! I went to the Ghatts where they hold the cremations and ok this sounds a little gloomy but in an odd way it is not they treat the person (body) beautifully and the whole death thing is not taboo here at all and it is not at all intimidating to watch.
This weekend i went up to Nhagakhort and stayed at the highest hotel in the world in the middle of the Himalayas and it was amazing. Apart from anything else it was just so nice to be out of all the dirt and noisee ( i have got used to the end of my nose being black with dust). Then add to the peace and quiet hot water!! Spectacular viewes and good company and you have one of the best weekends i have had since i have been here. On saturday mornign i hired a horse and rode around the mountains rodes watching the condors and looking at the stunning views. In the afternon we all sat n the ebalcony and watched the views and the susnet and talkede about our experiences. It really was lovely. The only down side to it all was having to come back into Thamel. Got back on Sunday evening and chucked a full on 5 year old temper tantrum at having to be back in this noisy, filth ridden corrupt town!! I know what you’re all thinking but really you try it!
So in a little under two weeks left here and by this time ei will be ready to come home thoroughly knackered minus a few pounds in weight oh and completely non smoking!!!! I think i will probably be back in the UK for the 22nd/23rd depedning on the flights etc so i will hope to see you in or around then some time!
Well i will leave you with that and try to send at least another two updates before i come home, i hope that you are all well and that you are enjoying thesee updates. As always i continue to miss you all and the things which you are all up to
Loving you all more each day
Actually, the pictures weren’t attached, so I’ll ask Penn to send them again, or maybe wait until she gets back to Blighty.
Simply put, without the EU, my business simply would not exist. The euro itself certainly makes life a lot simpler – it would be better still if the UK were to join in too – the sooner that happens, the better, as far as I am concerned.
Copenhagen in bullet points
A weekend in brief:
- Glögg was being served everywhere, and Hels and I quickly became addicted. Definitely the essential winter beverage.
- Tivoli – beautiful with its fairy lights, full of happy people, home to extortionately priced tat and site of the most bizarre animatronic Santa’s grotto you will ever see – worth the admission price for that alone.
- Degas – a highly recommended French restaurant.
- Vor Frelsers Kirke – utterly beautiful with the golden globe at the top of the spire glistening in the sun through the morning fog.
- Bastionen og Løven – home of quite possibly the best hot chocolate in the world, according to Hels anyway.
- Christiania – where Hels and I felt just a little out of place, but welcome nonetheless, at least in the little market. The drugs stalls are generally less welcoming, almost threatening – although that may be the attitude the locals adopt towards any couple that arrive dressed in smart designer clothing. Hels’s new Nepalese hat, purchased in the market, helped us to blend in.
- Charlottenborg Udstillingsbygning was one of the highlights of the weekend – a fabulous contemporary art gallery which is currently showing an exhibition entitled "From Dust to Dusk". If you like modern art and can get to see it, then I recommend that you do so. Our favourite piece (although we had several) was White Landscape by the German artist Christina Kubisch, which consisted of a large darkened room. On the floor, more than one hundred white painted speakers of differing sizes were illuminated from above by UV lamps so that they glowed in the darkness, and each gently and in turn played the sound of a tuning fork. Utterly mesmerizing.
- Strøget – shopping heaven. And like Jason, we also found lots of feet, which serve the useful purpose of making you stop walking, pause and look up and around.
- Barbar Bar was very cool. If I lived nearby, I think you’d find me there frequently.
- By train to Malmö across the Øresund Broen, which affords fabulous views across the steely grey and choppy Øresund that separates Denmark and Sweden. Malmö is every bit as beautiful as Copenhagen (or, to be more correct, København). Glögg and shopping were again high on the agenda, but not before we’d explored the Form/Design Center which was crammed full of the sort of things than any self-respecting Scandinavian interior designer would consider as must-haves, as well as David Design which was full of yet more things calling out "buy me! buy me!"
- Peder Oxe for more fine food – not just for tourists, as the guidebook suggests, but also popular with the locals, it seems.
- Nyhavn, on the other hand, truly is touristy.
- Finally and sadly, we had to leave. But leaving was made easier by virtue of the excellent trains once again, and the wonder that is Københavns Lufthavne – you can see why it has won so many awards. Without doubt the most logically and elegantly designed airport I have ever visited.
I think we’ll go again to Copenhagen. Highly recommended, though do expect it to be expensive. It isn’t necessarily the case that things in Denmark are more highly priced (although alcohol certainly is – expect around £4 for a pint or spirit+mixer), it’s just that the Danes don’t bother with cheap stuff. They clearly believe that if something is worth having or doing, then it is worth paying to have/do it right.
Wednesday 3 December 2003
Happy birthday to my brother, who is [cough!] years old today. Sticky buns for everyone.
Is it art?
Glass toilet opened. How long before some couple goes in there for more than just a pee?
GHC and radio grayblog
I’ve just listened to the archived Global House Connection programme for 23 November, which is excellent. If you don’t already listen to GHC each week, then you are missing out.
If you don’t have a fast enough connection, don’t forget that radio grayblog is still broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ll see if I can spend some time over the Christmas holiday uploading some new tunes – it’s a long time since the playlist was changed, but I still think it is good. And it only needs a 28k connection.
To hell with Christmas (if you’ll pardon the pun), this isn’t so much the festive season as the Martian season.
Next week, the Japanese probe Nozomi will either go into orbit or be flung off into space – or, disastrously, crash into the planet’s surface, contaminating it with microbes from Earth. Nozomi has had a troubled life with fuel problems and damage from a solar flare. It seems unlikely that it will succeed, but if the Japanese do manage to make everything work, I think it will go down in history as a major feat of interplanetary engineering.
Mars Express is already at work, having sent back its first image. Really this is something of a calibration exercise, and the real work won’t begin until it goes into orbit on Christmas Day, just a few hours after Beagle2 has touched down on the surface. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be all misty eyed if it works, and horribly upset if it doesn’t.
The British media hardly give any time at all to the other two probes that are on their way to Mars, NASA’s twin probes Spirit and Opportunity. Spirit lands on January 4th and Opportunity on January 25th, on opposite sides of the planet. Billed as twin "robot geologists", Spirit and Opportunity will be looking for geological evidence of water, as well as increasing understanding of the planet’s surface – and have a big advantage over Beagle2 in that they are mobile, travelling around 40 yards each day during their 90-day mission.
However you look at it, this is really exciting stuff. I remember everyone at work being crowded around the PC as I downloaded fresh images from Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover in 1997 over a 28.8kbps connection – it was amazing to see almost-live images from Mars, only a few minutes old. And don’t forget that Mars Odyssey has been sending back data for two years up until it was knocked out during October’s massive solar flare, and Mars Global Surveyor has sent some amazing pictures too.
This is an exciting time – I think I’m likely to be attached to my laptop and broadband over Christmas!
Thursday 4 December 2003
Hels bought me a Marks and Spencer chocolate advent calendar. So far I’ve had chocolates shaped as a snowman, a cracker, a stocking and a penguin – all closely related to Christian symbolism, undoubtedly.
I’m also mildly disturbed by the image on the front of the calendar, which shows the portly bearded chappy in his red outfit admonishing the onlooker to be quiet whilst, through a doorway, a young boy sleeps in his bed. Frankly, I think he should be reported to the authorities.
Not that I’m ungrateful for the chocolates, I hasten to add.
When we were in Malmö, we went into a department store where there was a long queue of children (and parents) waiting to sit on Santa’s knee. Clearly the over-zealous child protection lobby that we have here and in America has not yet reached southern Sweden, as the children actually were sitting on the besuited fella’s leg. But the one thing that I did notice was that this particular Santa had a notebook and pen for writing down the requests of the children. I was very disappointed to see this, as I always assumed that he could remember all these things without notes. After all, he is able to visit all the children of the world in one night, and also knows whether they’ve been "good" or "bad" as well. My illusion has been shattered.
I also noticed that he was left-handed.
Drunk and disorderly
Hels has just called me from Charing Cross station. She’s been to a lunch organised by one of her clients, along with one of the girls from her office. It seems that she’s had one or two margueritas.
How come I never get invited to lunches like that? I’m clearly in the wrong industry.
I don’t think that there is any doubt that aircraft contrails affect the weather – it can be noticably cooler in our part of Sussex when the US Air force are running concentrated supply missions to the Middle East, as their flight path passes overhead and an aircraft can pass as frequently as once every two or three minutes. As a result, the whole sky can become covered in a thin milky white cloud.
Friday 5 December 2003
Life seems to be incredibly full at the moment – not only do I have a full work schedule, but there is also a packed calendar on the social side. Tonight Hels is coming to Chichester and we are going out for drinks with the usual suspects. Tomorrow morning we are dropping in on the parents for morning coffee before heading to Brighton for a spot of Christmas shopping, followed by dinner with Charlie and Peeet. Next week there are at least two dinners booked in already. And the diary towards Christmas seems to get busier still.
The thing is, unlike some people who find the whole yuletide social shenanigans to be hard work and a nuisance, I love spending time with friends and socialising – not least because it usually involves a lot of good food and drink. I don’t really understand why people moan about Christmas – even the gift giving and shopping is fun, if a little hard work and sometimes costly. All you have to do is remember that the most important thing is to have a good time with the special people around you, and not get too hung up on the boring stressy elements.
Sunday 7 December 2003
A special announcement
Well, for those of you who have waited patiently for a photo of Hels, here she is with your cheesily-grinning author on the banks of a canal in Copenhagen, with the impressive buildings of the Gammel Strand behind.
In my original account of our long weekend in Copenhagen, I left out one thing that took place. On the Friday evening, we walked around Tivoli, admiring the beautiful fairy lights and watching all the happy Danes (and tourists) enjoying the rides, stalls and glögg. Having passed the skating rink and warmed ourselves by a brazier, we turned a corner and found the most breathtaking sight, a weeping willow with simple white lights along every branch arching down and wonderfully reflected in the water of a lake. It was utterly beautiful and we held each other close as we admired it. We stood there gazing at it, and agreed that it was very beautiful indeed. Then there was a pause. I turned to Hels, and said "Will you marry me?" – and without so much as a moment of hesitation, she said "Yes!"
On Monday, we stopped in a wonderful independent jewellers on the Strøget, where we chose and I purchased a beautiful white gold ring with four princess-cut diamonds, which Hels is wearing as she sits next to me now.
I am the happiest man alive.
[with apologies to all those who are reading this before I've had a chance to send you a personal message - we're just so thrilled, that we want everyone to know!]
Monday 8 December 2003
…to everyone who has sent messages of congratulation to us.
Tuesday 9 December 2003
Yesterday, Nicholas van Hoogstraten was released from prison. It had been found by the High Court that he had no case to answer in the alledged manslaughter of business associate Mohammed Raja.
In July 1999, following a long-running dispute with Mr Raja, van Hoogstraten allegedly sent two henchmen to Mr Raja’s home with a loaded firearm, with, it is claimed, the intention to scare Mr Raja. These two men shot and killed Mr Raja on his doorstep.
In his ruling yesterday, Sir Stephen Mitchell agreed with the defence team:
But, because there was no evidence that Hoogstraten foresaw that the two men would have deliberately turned the gun on Mr Raja, he could not be prosecuted for manslaughter.
If, however, Mr Raja had been killed accidentally by Hoogstraten’s two alleged henchmen, he could have been convicted of manslaughter.
Now, I’m not a lawyer and have no legal training, but doesn’t it seem to you that the law is just plain wrong in this regard? The Court was satisfied that van Hoogstraten sent these men, and that he knew they would carry a firearm. Surely that is enough for some sort of conviction?
I think there must be several people around who have already packed their bags and left the country.
As expected, Japan’s Nozomi Mars mission has been aborted due to technical failure.
More space stuff
NASA proposes a nuclear powered probe to the Jovian moons.
A few photographs from our trip to Copenhagen:
This is the view under the Knippelsbro. It just looked fantastically atmospheric that morning. In a way, all that was needed was an old Rover P5 and John Thaw, and you’d have had a scene from any one of a dozen episodes of The Sweeney. Except it would be in Denmark, obviously.
My beautiful fiancée, leaning against a pillar whilst I faff around taking silly pictures of nothing in particular under a bridge.
Very close to the Knippelsbro was this building, the Asiatisk Plads. I don’t think it was anything special, simply some offices, but to me it was supremely beautiful – the simplicity of form and design, the linear grace, even the little details of the security lighting on the outside. I’m not sure that Hels agreed with me entirely on this, but I thought it was great. We saw a whole lot of extremely well-designed buildings in Copenhagen – not fancy or gimmicky, just stylish and smart. Also, there generally wasn’t a lot of graffiti or flyposting around on the buildings to spoil the look.
Hels stirring a cup of glögg when we were in Malmö. This drink will always be in our memories of this trip, and we plan to serve it at our wedding.
Malmö – not so very different in general appearance from Copenhagen, though clearly without that capital city oomph. A view of the buildings in Drottninggatan.
Many towns and cities have a typical look for their local buildings – the more traditional ones at least. Chichester is famous for its Georgian doors – there is even a book on the subject. In Copenhagen, the norm is red brick, but there are also a large number of buildings that are rendered or painted in this lovely warm mustard yellow colour. This one was on Nyhavn.
Wednesday 10 December 2003
Tom wants to know how many UK-based blogs there are. If you are not already listed there, you can help Tom with his useful research by submitting your site to the list of blogs at weblogs.co.uk.
Making Fiends episode 6, featuring an extra extra extra extra extra large flea collar.
Fan and ball
It’s been linked everywhere, but this game is simple, infuriating and wonderfully executed.
Thursday 11 December 2003
Looks like I have a bit of problem with someone spamming my comments. I’ve deleted five this morning, all from the same IP address (now banned), all with a link to a site offering pills that would, supposedly, enlarge my parts.
I’ve heard of an anti-spam gizmo for MT, so if this continues to be a problem, I may install it.
Friday 12 December 2003
It looks like I’m going to become just another statistic.
Weebl and Bob
New Weebl and Bob….. here.
Saturday 13 December 2003
The devil is in…
Crumbs! This getting married malarkey is hard work! And incredibly expensive. We’ve just been and booked the venue (deposit = one month’s net pay) and checked out the church (yes, I know – me, a confirmed atheist, getting married in church). We’ve costed out the food and wine for the guests (yikes!), allocated some cash for flowers (double yikes!) and music (yikes again!) and figured out how many favours we can call in (photographers, wedding car owners, floral artists, musicians – we’re coming for you!) in order to keep costs down to a figure that won’t leave us mired in debt for the whole of our married life.
I’m having palpitations.
But I’m also determined that we should enjoy it, so now that some of the fundamentals are falling into place (and Hels is wonderful at organising all this – it’s all in very safe and capable hands), I’m hoping we can relax a little over Christmas and New Year and soak it all up a little. And I know it is going to be a fun and fabulous day, as it should be.
Sunday 14 December 2003
Assuming that the man arrested in Iraq really is Saddam Hussein, the real question that will be asked now is what exactly to do with him. So far, finding much evidence of anything at all has been a problem. I guess there is enough from the attacks on the Kurds and the war against Kuwait to convict him of something. But the question is, where will he be tried? And under which authority?
Walk in the park
A visit to London yesterday for dinner with friends as well as a visit to the Serpentine Gallery to see the exhibition of photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Pictures of nothing much at first glance, being in the main large monochrome seascapes, but revealing, on closer examination, a subtle texture of ripples, waves, clouds and stars.
It was the first time that either of us had been to the Serpentine, which is a rather neat and small building, glowing brightly in the darkness of a winter evening in Hyde Park. Its small size is actually an asset – no risk of getting "galleried out" at the Serpentine.
Even more impressive in Hyde Park was the brightly lit and shimmering Albert Memorial. In any other city in the world, such a structure would be the centre of massive tourist activity and would feature in every postcard. London simply has too many significant structures, and the Memorial is all too frequently overlooked.
Monday 15 December 2003
Free PCs for all..
Not much discussion in the Blogosphere (well, I’ve not seen much) of Metronomy, a new company that is giving away umpteen million (or several hundred thousand, depending on who you believe) free new IBM PCs. Or, to be more precise, it is loaning them on a rolling three year contract. There’s a catch of course – you must agree to be exposed to one minute of adverts for every twenty minutes of computer use, and must also use your computer for not less than thirty hours per month. I don’t find either of these restrictions to be particularly challenging – it’s easy enough to use the advert time for a loo or tea break, and an hour a day is pretty low level usage for most of the people who read this site. I also predict that patches will become available very quickly to suppress the adverts.
Is this a good idea, from either a commercial or marketing point of view? In my opinion, it will certainly have an impact on the PC market, probably wiping out the bottom end low-cost and very low margin machine market. Bad news for the likes of Dixons and Comet, I’d suggest. I am also unsure about the viability of the business model itself – will enough advertising revenue be generated to make the loan of the computers (and associated transport, admin and support costs) a profitable exercise? I’m not sure, as many companies are already wary of advertising on the net, having had their fingers burned by unrealistic promises in the past. I suspect that the main beneficiaries of adverts in this context are likely to be the usual suspects – purveyors of online financial services, Amazon and their competitors, the supermarkets and possibly also e-government. I don’t see it as being any more effective than other online adverts, other than by being more closely targeted than traditional net adverts.
We shall see. Hels and I may apply for one, just to see how we get on with it. After all, we need to be a three PC family, don’t we?
Tuesday 16 December 2003
More from Mars
Mine is officially the funkiest office in the intellectual property industry this morning, as I’m working to the sounds of two new music purchases that arrived from America this morning: Kaskade: San Francisco Sessions: v4 is still to be unwrapped, but right now King Kooba: Indian Summer is playing, and jolly brilliant it is too.
Top marks should also be awarded to Shop Solid for getting my CDs to me faster than a very fast thing.
Stepping on a banana skin
The transport reporter on BBC South Today, Paul Clifton, used a term I’d not heard of before when talking about the campaigners opposed to the construction of a second runway at Gatwick. One step up from NIMBY (not in my back yard), he described them as BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone).
A friend of mine who is professionally involved in countryside management would describe BANANAs as being members of the "blue tit and woolly hat brigade". I know what he means – unfortunately, a balance has to be struck between conservation and infrastructure and development, and that sometimes means that what we would like to preserve has to give way for what we need to develop. Equally, sometimes that situation is reversed, and the poor people who make those decisions and then put them into practice are unlikely to ever satisfy everybody.
It’s a long time since I said it, but…
Beer with Greg, Paul F, Kearn and Hamish, with sightings of Sarah, Paul H, Dave, Gary, Nikki, Ted and Kristian.
Since we are engaged, I guess it is ok for me to say that I literally ache for Hels. We’ll not be together until Friday, which seems a long way from now.
(Addendum: must remember not to post here when under the influence of alcohol, as I tend to get excessively mushy.)
Wednesday 17 December 2003
Can anyone help?
Some time ago, my father chose to purchase a ShopVac Classic 30 vacuum cleaner for the office. The company that supplied it no longer do so, and do not supply bags or filters. None of the regular outlets stock them. I’ve found a source for the bags online (vacuumworld.co.uk), but they don’t do the filters.
I figure that we can’t be the only people in the country with this model of cleaner. So, if you have one, or know someone who does, do you know where to get bags and filters?
A couple of interesting science and technology stories from the BBC:
Oldest evidence of photosynthesis found – "Life may be older and more robust than we thought".
Bendy lampposts may save lives – or may provide endless fun for vandals.
Thursday 18 December 2003
More from Mars
Mars probe Beagle 2 enters crucial phase. Fingers crossed.
Grauniad Bolg Awrads
Privately built aircraft breaks the sound barrier. If I was very rich, I’d have one of these. Just think of the time saved for getting to meetings!
Friday 19 December 2003
Woo, yay and, indeed, houpla! West Pier restoration given the go-ahead. All they need now is the money.
More wooing and yaying: Beagle 2 successfully detaches from Mars Express.
Related: Beagle 2 official homepage.
Monday 22 December 2003
For anyone that didn’t read the Independent on Saturday, I recommend Feargal Keane’s article Saddam’s arrest should be the signal to bring other war criminals to book.
He’s been eaten by a monster wave!
Also: Magnitude 6.5 earthquake shakes California, roughly 70 miles from Santa Barbara. My friends in SBA report a "rolling motion" that made them feel dizzy. Apparently, the contents of the whisky cupboard were undamaged, to the relief of all concerned.
More news reports: San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Who needs expensive gizmos when the Net is full of games like A.Blast that you can play for free?
Tuesday 23 December 2003
Final Penn update
I forgot to post Penn’s latest and final email from Nepal:
Well guys here is my last update to you before I start making my way home. As I am plagued with cold I have decided to head into the country tomorrow and away from Kathmandu in an attempt to relax and get rid of any last remaining germs and so this will be my last email to you all from Nepal and there is no Internet access in the countryside and my next email will be to my parents to say that i have arrived safely in Bangkok!
So this is a very odd time for me I am now up to the last few days of my trip and I do not feel how I thought would, though why this surprises me I am not sure as nothing here has been as I thought it would. I thought that I would be excited about leaving Thamel and excited about coming home, but also sad at leaving the last few other volunteers here, but I am not really any of these things. In fact I am damn right grumpy and niggled and I have no real concept of how I feel. I know that I want to come home and get on with my normal life, get back to a routine, a good job and my friends and family who I have missed desperately and will up until the second I see everyone, but aside from that it is hard to explain how I feel now and i am hoping that these last few days in the country will help me figure out a lot of this!
Let me start with the last day at the children’s home! Well I went in early having finished the kids room the night before and blew up a load of balloons so that they covered quite a bit of the floor and made sure that all the books and pens which I had brought over and begged borrowed and stolen from other people where put out and the room was presented well. I then went out and gave Mr. oli all of the food (ok food is a very lose description for the junk which I had brought them) and the cake, which I had made, he thought this was great and wanted to try the cake then and there. The only thing that managed to take the wind out of my sails was when he asked me to divide it equally amongst the children. So one hour later I had prepared 60 party food platters for the kids and was quite happy never to see another crisp or sweet again! I then preceded to give each child two balloons, a whistle and lolly, and this was quite amusing as apparently some of the children had not seen balloons before!! The only comparison I can draw to this is to put a puppy or a kitten out in the snow and watch how they react to the snow being on their feet!! So with Kids already hyper and all over the place we let them in for Tiffin – afternoon tea which of course was the party food. I do not think I have ever seen food go so quickly or a 5lb chocolate cake diminish so quickly but a good time was had by all. So I then presented the room to them and they really loved it and I am delighted to report that I am pleased with the way it came out (show you all pics when i come home). This was received with hugs and kisses from the teachers to me and a few tears here and there!! So After 6 weeks, a lot of heartache and one room later I went to say my good byes when mr.oli asked me if I would stay for another half an hour!! The kids had prepared some dancing for me to say thank you, which was really lovely – bless them all. So I then said my good byes which took another half an hour and left and whilst I was upset once I had left, I do not know how I feel about it all now and I hope that I will have a better understanding of what I think once I get home. All I know is that I already miss the kids and I will miss them even more once they are no longer up the road and that in leaving them I also leave a little bit of myself behind as I have fallen in love with them all!! Any further than that I could not tell you and I am afraid it will just have to be a case of watch this space!!
Now my time in Thamel is hollow and I suddenly realise how tired and fed up I am with all the noise, dirt and corruptness which exists within the country so I am headed back off into the countryside for some calm and peace and quiet before i head home properly. But I guess I have achieved what I set out to do and that was to help out and have some input into a children’s home. Whilst it was not the Julie Andrews experience I thought it would be (in fact more the Tarantino balls out blood and guts version!!) It has still be an emotional life changing experience and I hope in some ways there is a small happy ending for the kids there as well as me.
So my mind now returns to home…
Again I am nervous about this as home – the UK – now seems so foreign to me (whilst I know I will) I wonder how I will ever get used to the luxury which the U.K. is. I know for you at home this is an alien concept and you probably think I am nuts, but I have been paying an extra 100 rupees for a sandwich at a nice restaurant just so I can use their linen napkins and I have to say it is a real treat!! So to come home where people wish to know what Christmas presents I want is somewhat odd. For at the moment I feel I have no real needs and particularly when I think about all the nice things I will have access to when I get home – like English tea, real milk and HOT WATER !!! I just think it will be another culture shock and this is an odd feeling when after all I am coming home!
I sat last night is Sam’s bar (my favourite haunt) and tried to think how I felt about the whole experience and the conclusion I came to is at the moment there is no conclusion and maybe there never will be. Nepal is a country captured in beauty with perhaps some of the most ugly things I have ever seen. Two days ago I witnessed a man beat his wife (badly) in the street, Simon (one of the crew) stopped me from interceding and told me to look around at the locals – nobody even flinched!! He reminded me this is their world and not ours and sometimes you just have to accept that, to which my reply was a flood of tears. You see I do not understand how this country and its people can accept the way it exists. I wonder if maybe the fact they are surrounded by such beautiful scenery and exquisite nature means they are able to behave in a more despicable manner because it is soothed by their surroundings, or just simply they are ignorant to the fact that other human beings are beautiful too. I just know that as I write this to you all and try to explain it makes me cry and I am not sure if I cry for the children I have met, the people here or the conflicting warmth and coldness of the culture as a whole. But I know it will be a relief to come back amongst the people where good relationships are appreciated and the world is slightly more sympathetic to its weak. So have i had a good time in nepal – yes i have, have i liked everything – no, would i come back – i’ll get back to you on this – lets just see what conclusions i manage to draw….
So I will end my updates to you by saying thank you to you all. Thanks to all of you who helped in the fundraising that contributed to my getting here, thanks to those of you who have sent me fabulous emails (or two or three a day xxxxxxxxxxxxx) and thanks to you all for being my friends and making me realise what a lucky individual I am, I willing be thinking about you all over the next week or so as I am on my travels home to you all.
I love you all
As a footnote, I’ve just had a conversation with Penn. She is tired but home, in pain from root canal surgery. She tells me that the parcel arrived on the morning that she left, so she didn’t get to give it to the children herself, but one of the other volunteers there promised to take it to the school on our behalf.
So it arrived safely and got to the people that will make best use of it. Excellent! Penn says a big thank you to those who helped with it.
A reminder that there is more to space exploration at the moment than missions to Mars: Sino-European mission, Double Star, prepares for launch.
Related: European Space Agency news page on Double Star.
Wednesday 24 December 2003
I often travel the section of road that has seen a fatal accident today. It is very dangerous. The coach looks like it belongs to Richardsons, a company often used for school and college trips from Chichester.
Maybe this will lead to new safety measures on that road. They would be long overdue.
… Paul C, Greg, Kearn and Aris. Sightings of the Nags posse.
In a major development, tonight I possibly had my last ever haircut with Jo. She has cut my hair for eight years, and she and Andy have become good friends. Good luck to Jo in her future.
Paul R was also sighted at the salon. He was to travel onwards to a vet to get some water pills for his dog. Somehow, I know there is a joke in there somewhere….
My part in Hitler’s downfall..
I find this to be strangely amusing.
Well, I’ve nearly finished wrapping the gifts – just the last few tags to write, then I have to bag everything up and decide which gifts Hels will have to wait until Boxing Day for (so she has some to open when we are at my parent’s house).
Then I’ll quickly tidy the flat, sort out a bit of laundry, deliver a couple of Christmas cards and then drive off to Tunbridge Wells for the start of the food and drink!
This will be the last update until after Christmas. Remember to keep an eye out for progress of Beagle 2. Aside from that, remember the true meaning of Christmas – a distorted winter solstice festival that was hijacked by Christianity in an attempt to win over pagan tribespeople in Europe, that is now the preserve of business and corporate policy. Enjoy!
May all your mince pies be well filled.
Monday 29 December 2003
…though I’ve come pretty close to it through an excess of excess in the last few days. I think that most of my internal organs are about to pack in as a result of the strain of it all.
Coming up soon on grayblog…
- the annual grayblog Review Of The Year
- a Christmas report
- um… stuff. and things.
Watch this space!
Wednesday 31 December 2003
Apologies for the continuing lack of content. I’ve been monumentally busy lately, as our social diaries seem to be just packed to the gunwhales with events involving friends, family and J Sainsbury.
Anyway, I promised a Christmas report. There isn’t much to say, to be honest, but highlights included dinner with Hels’s sister Lu, her husband Kevin and their friends Fiona and Kevin on Christmas Eve; Christmas Day with Hels’s family; Boxing Day with my family; a walk by Chichester canal; dinner with a friend from Hels’s office and her family; a burger in a bowling alley (don’t ask); drinks and dinner with some more of Hels’s friends.
The edge was partly taken off things as we were both ill, possibly as a result of exceeding the limits of food and drink consumption, and possibly as a result of a bug of some description. I suspect it was a combination of the two.
Tonight we shall be in Chichester for the annual New Year celebration at the Nag’s Head. This, by way of a change, shall involve consuming large quantities of food and drink, with the possible added complication of dancing.
Pity my liver and pass the Rennies please.
Will someone put the bitch down at the earliest opportunity? There is a limit to what is acceptable in today’s society. The thing is an ugly brute too.