Sunday, June 29, 2008


That's beeb with a d.

Just listened to a request of mine played on Radio 3 Requests programme!

Not only did it sound good - my name was on the lips of Emma Kirkby!

I can die happy.

Dame of the British Empire, voice of unrivalled clarity and singer on so much of the music in my possession she is almost an obsession.

Mrs K. even got the ultimate accolade - a South Bank Show about her.

Not bad for someone who started out as a schoolteacher just singing for pleasure.

And greatest thing of all - she's never sung Verdi!

Today is also:

1613: London's Globe Theatre burns down when a theatrical canon is fired during the play 'All Is True'.

which I could say reflects another 'burning obsession' of mine, Shakespeare!

Fortunately the modern Globe hasn't burnt down - its touring company is going to make an appearance in Timisoara on July 10th with Romeo and Juliet and then in August I am off to see The Merry Wives of Windsor, done alla Soap Opera, at the rebuilt Globe in London.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Went to get a couple of essentials from 'THE MALL' - a bottle of wine, refill for the anti-mosquito machine and bread. When I got there it became apparant that it had rained in the night - more than rained if the amount of mopping-up, closed shops and dripping ceilings were anything to go by.
Strange, how, in the modern world, a nice new shopping centre is built with a level below ground level and still can't keep out the water.
Well, maybe not - it is Romania and despite the epidemic of floods the country seems to be experiencing, no one seems to think before hand about the likelihood of flooding in any particular place.
Mind you - it must have been wet. I have a vague memory of getting up and closing a window at some stage - and of seeing flashing lights: But I was dead to the world. No international news headlines mind you - but, hey, it is Romania and no one would notice.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Not so shock-horror

(or animal magic)

Wimbledon again - although I found it hard to concentrate on anything yesterday (encountered Margarita whilst watching the Germans' luck dump the Turks and she had an effect).

Was trying to think what animal Nadal reminded me of - he certainly prowls and walks the line like some caged animal - was thinking of a lion or tiger - but he showed a sense of humour yesterday which 1) He should do more often and 2) I don't associate with cats.

He's big and has ripply muscles - tigerish ... but the personality - tart. sharp, explosive - but 'naughty-boy going to get away with anything eyes'.

Too intelligent to be Don? Got the power though - and the sense fun.

Anyway - he powered through.

Not so Sharapova. I have to say I am not a great fan of the Russian miss ... too:

if you know what I mean.

(Not distracting from her tennis - she has been good and hope she returns to form - just, well, personality.)

Sadder was Roddick going - but what a dreadful performance - over-tired?

Not quite as old as that one hopes - and back to rut next year!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Screen's Green

... Wimbledon has started.

Not that this picture gives any indication of the intenseness of the green - the contrasting white of the players and the lines, or the sheer lift knowing summer has at last arrived and all is well with the world.

Bring on the strawberries and champagne (well, strawberry ice cream and fizzy plonk).

I'm watching Federer playing with (as in cat with mouse) Hrbaty at the moment - pictures delayed as Romanian TV, for some inexplicable reason, thought a local girl getting trounced out in the first round was more important.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Babel, Kosovo, Orwell and Kadare

On This Day

  • 1389: Ottoman sultan Murad I defeats the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo, a key event in Serbian national history.

The BBC.

Strange the banging together of ideas and thoughts - and lessons.

I was doing a 'conversation' session on Wednesday - based (at the request of one of the participants) on a set of programmes from the BBC Learning English programme, Talk about English.

The series (excellent) is called, 'Who on Earth are we?' - and has a basis in the idea of culture and how it affects communication.

We started to examine the idea of stereotypes and got on to the question of what stereotypes people thought there were about Romanians. Our discussion moved into the topic of religion, never very safe at the best of times.

Life got a little warm, but not too heated - the biggest issue being over the peaceful nature of the Orthodox religion in Romania.

I decline, at this point, to address that.

After the discussion, I thought about posting a few comments on the effects of religion on the 'cultural identity' of people.

However, seeing as I regard statements in the English classroom as more confessional than those delivered to your average psychiatrist (at least you are concious of what you are saying on the couch, and in some control of the language you are using) I decided against it - and preserved the integrity of Babel, once again.

However, the issue has been simmering - and when, today, the Beeb pop up with the Kosovo Battle - it spills over.

Take a look at this choice piece of writing:

On June 28, 1389, a mighty battle was fought at Kosovo Polje. It pitted the Serbian defenders of Christ's holy cross against the invading Ottoman Empire (Turkey) adherents of the Muslim crescent moon.

This is from a piece from 'Truthmedia' - welcome to 1984 'newspeak' in reality.

I think the idea of combining crude nationalism and divisive religious views can find no better expression (I also guess the writers of this 'truth' wouldn't even notice they'd done it).

I've blogged before on nationalism and patriotism - on the difference between loving the state and loving the land.

Unfortunately, religion has been dragged in on the side of the state - and that leads to an intensification of conflict.

It doesn't have to be - the English (after beating each other to death and burning a few people) finally settled to a religion which, at its best, fitted the land: Anglicanism is a now dated celebration of getting on with the farming and not messing around with the harvest.

It's whole principle is the reduction of religion to being servant of the people, not the other way round - and if the sate is going to be involved (and, boy, is it involved in the Anglican Church!) it is only to make sure the religion stays firmly in it's place - Sunday morning, and a couple of rites of passage.

God and you are friends on personal terms - you don't need a man in silly clothes to interfere between you - and the buildings are nice too.

Not so I'm afraid with other nations - they take their gods far too seriously - look at the state America gets in!

And don't forget, that is a place which believes in the separation of religion from the state!


If there was to be a 'new-speak' in Orwell's totalitarian world, there must have been an 'Oldspeak'.

Fortunately, Kosovo has managed to produce an adherant to Oldspeak as well as countless adherents to the destruction of words.

Ismail Kadare

You may, or may not have heard of the Albanian author - he has something of a reputation.

For the purposes of this little excursion, he wrote perhaps the sanest book on the events in Kosovo over 600 years ago:

Three Elegies for Kosovo.

(Amazon uk)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Murray Moan

You know, some people just don't get it do they?

Murray (Brit - meaning not English) - plays tennis (sometimes), and moans a lot.

Pulled out of Queens - thumb hurting - disappointing on clay (disappointing all over) but upset the mandarins at Wimbledon don't rate him higher.

Whoops - they've ranked him way above where I place him in the game.

Watching Queens last week you notice there are the winners and the players you like watching - some do both (Federer) - others do one (Nadal) and others do the other (Gasquet).

In fact, 'the frog' is well up on my list of young players I'd prefer to watch in preference to the moaning Scot! Tennis stops being a sport and starts to become grace, art, dance when some players play.

So much for nationalism!

The other favourite to watch in the male game is Roddick - American. But that's because he's a gentleman.

Murray would not notice one of them even if it bit him.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Shakespeare didn't play cricket.

Mind you - he does seem to know a thing or two about Women's Hockey:

But the RSC Stratford Residents don't seem to have noticed.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I just want to point out:

Romania has a hamster:

Not everyone believes me when I tell them this - but check it out for yourself: Wiki; ITIS; and something European.

Interestingly enough - range is not known, but there are a pair living in my attic in the village.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, June 09, 2008

On This Day ...

  • 1549: The Protestant 'Book of Common Prayer' is introduced, sparking a Catholic peasant rebellion

Not the most interesting of thngs, you might say - and a pity the Beeb had to turn it into something violent - but have you any idea of the significance of the thing?
The very language you are reading, the language I speak, Shakespeare and all that ... all have at least one root in the Book of Common Prayer.

For starters - it was in Latin. Henry was breaking from Rome not from religion - although it didn't stay in Latin for long .. 2 or 3 years: Then the book got seriously important.

The book is basically a handbook - a how to run a religion/church program.

It also says how to get born married and dead the right way.

It is the words which accompany all the seriously serious events of life -

DEARE beloved, forasmuche as all men bee conceyved and borne in sinne, and that no manne borne in synne, can entre into the kingdom of God (except he be regenerate, and borne anewe of water, and the holy ghost) I beseche you to call upon God the father through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteouse mercy he wil graunt to these children that thing, which by nature they cannot have, that is to saye, they may be baptised with the holy ghost, and receyved into Christes holy Church, and be made lyvely membres of the same.

Look at that for a sentence! And listen to the words ... doesn't it echo - forget Big Ben - hear tiny baptism!

The sin - you are born in sin! Fortunately, the little screaming bundle, whose welcoming words these are, couldn't understand - but that is only a temporary thing ... this is in English, it would soon be able to understand - and religion decends to the people.

Or how about this one:

DEERELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the syght of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimonie, which is an honorable estate instituted of God in paradise, in the time of mannes innocencie, signifying unto us the misticall union that is betwixte Christe and his Churche: whiche holy estate, Christe adorned and beutified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galile, and is commended of Sainct Paule to be honourable emong all men; and therefore is not to bee enterprised, nor taken in hande unadvisedlye, lightelye, or wantonly, to satisfie mens carnal lustes and appetites, like brute beastes that have no understanding: but reverentely, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the feare of God.

Big breath needed ... and words I know, not exactly in the text above - but close enough.

And a final one - really final:

I COMMENDE thy soule to God the father almighty, and thy body to the grounde, earth to earth, asshes to asshes, dust to dust, in sure and certayne hope of resurreccion to eternall lyfe, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall chaunge our vile body, that it may be lyke to his glorious body, accordyng to the myghtie workyng wherby he is hable to subdue all thynges to himselfe.

Important book that one.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, June 06, 2008

Reith 1

This year's Reith Lectures on China are called:

Chinese Vistas

and it's a good title.

When I think of the fantastic 'rolls' of art - Vista is gooooood!

Professor Jonathan Spence - the gentleman with the un-enviable task of talking about what must be one of the most contentious issues the Lectures have ever dealt with, did good, in my eyes.

20 mins of quick Confucian Ways - not an attempt to look at the philosophy so much as to put Confucian thought into the context of Chinese History (and world history too).

It was clear.

Original Confucius; developed Confucius; rejected Confucius; and resurgent Confucius!

Pity the BBC revealed a degree of suspicious political posturing in its choice of questioners - and sheer daftness with the Left footer contribution (at least the 'Proddy Dog' asked relevant).

A great sense of wit in the answers though.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rieth is back!

For those who love intelligent talk:

R4Choice: The Reith Lectures 2008 - Chinese Vistas 03 Jun 08

the 2008 Reith lectures - subject, China.

There is also this on Tibet:

Tibet, the story of a Feud

Both downloadable for a limited time.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

On This Day

1098: The First Crusade captures the strategically important city of Antioch after an eight month siege.

1940: The last ship of 'Operation Dynamo' leaves Dunkirk, completing the evacuation of 338,226 Allied troops.

Both from BBC.

The first:

The siege of Antioch
, as part of the Crusade has a lasting consequence in present day attitudes on both sides of the Muslim/Christian divide.
We continue to play out the battle and the siege and the war and countless lives still get spent.
Celebration of the victory (even in an apparently innocuous 'On this day ..) can do nothing but fuel the bloodshed and hatred.
Why not find an example of good relationships between the Muslim and Christian world?
What was happening on Sicily at this time?
Well, one thing was a fusion of culture a live-and-let-live policy which led to a massive outpouring of building and other cultural activity which serves as a model for latter generations to follow.
There are countless examples of good relations between the two 'cultures' (although, as Sicily shows - that itself is something of a challengable statement - not the good relations, the TWO: Orthodox christians and Catholic christians certainly don't seem to live in the same world - and divisions in Islam show too).
The renaissance is very much a product of the interaction of merchants and traders, princes and clerics from both sides of the divide - and the wonders of Southern Spain under the Muslim world were never really repeated under its christian conquerors.
You doubt this - ask the Jews whose oppression got far worse under the Spanish christians.

If the events of Antioch are distant and apparently minor to my world (although attitudes to Muslims in Romania and misunderstanding of Islam make me hesitant to make so bold a claim), Dunkirk is different.

The first thing to understand is a deep emotional commitment I feel to the events - my father was at Dunkirk - if the evacuation hadn't happened, the chances of me being here at all would be very limited.
In books like 'Atonement' I experience a connection with those characters who experience Dunkirk which is difficult to describe and impossible to explain - this is not history - it is my life.
But for the purpose of this post, that is not the issue.
Relations with Germany are: Why have the British and the Germans managed to go through two World Wars banging away at each other and still come out (comparative) friends?
I think part of it is acceptance of an essential common humanity - acknowledgement of and focus on what is the same, and common economic progress.
(The American film industry certainly thinks there is no difference if the number of British English accents given to Germans in their WWII films is anything to go by).
Russia however seems hell bent on the 'crusader path' - constant showing on the t.v. of WWII films with evil Germans and heroic Russian children who inevitably get slaughtered by the wicked Nazi. Commemoration of victory over the evil German is enshrined in the national calender - Victory Day.

A time to let go ...?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Today ...

On This Day

  • 1879: Eugene Napoleon, the last heir to Napoleon's dynasty, is killed fighting for Britain in the Zulu Wars.

Anyone else out there find this one fascinating?

Mr Nappy was French - not only that, a Bonaparte - and fighting FOR England (would say Britain, but get real, Celts of the world just love subservience - their natural position).

Apparently he got a spear in the thigh and another in the left shoulder.

Great stories and conspiracy theories instantly jumped to birth - not much changes does it?

Not only did the poor chap get disembowelled (all that garlic must have been a nasty shock to the Zulu) but he gets the final British indignity of burial in Chislehurst! Now that is really 'suburban' - but very bourgeois I suppose - and one does associate the tacky Bonapartes with jumped-up shop keepers.

Considering the relationship between the English and the French - and what must be one of the deepest seated antipathies in history - what the blazes was the man doing in the armed forces of Her Britannic Majesty?

Mind you - it was bumping off a few natives so maybe it counted as a hunting trip?

Technorati Tags: , ,