Archive for the ‘ Personal ’ Category

Occasionally I come across a film that is an unexpected and unlauded gem – and ‘Lady in the Water’ is one of them. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, I should have been prepared for something a little different. The synopsis sounded like an upmarket ‘Splash’ with a man finding a strange woman in a pool, but all similarities ended there. There was no romance, lots of mistakes and a strangely redemptive ending. A fairy tale brought into the modern world in a very convincing yet mundane way.

Olympic Surprise

Well, something I never thought would happen – I am actually sorry that the Olympics are coming to an end! London has been like another town with people looking happy in the official 2012 pink T Shirts and everyone talking to each other. Walking down Whitehall was an experience during the Beach Volleyball first week. You could hear the cheers streets away from morning to night and the crowd sounded like they were having the time of their lives. It was totally unexpected and surprisingly amazing. Not to mention the number of medals – shows what lottery money and a home advantage can do.

I popped up to see the triathalon – or at least the cycling section – around Buckingham Palace, but was too late. There was still a sense of euphoria though, and at least one chap posing with a flag

Prometheus – 3D – not sure….

Watching Prometheus, the new Alien prequel, in 3D was not as immersive experience as I has expected. It is the first 3D movie I have seen and I think I was expecting to be part of the action, or to have elements of the screen coming out to meet me in my seat. This sort of happened, but every time it did, I was aware of it so it kept reminding me that I was watching a film. I don’t think this was the desired effect – I also felt vaguely nauseous, which didn’t help.

The film itself was OK – the set design was impressive and there was an attempt to give it some philosophical depth, but it didn’t quite live up to it’s own aspirations. A good film, but not the hoped for great one.

Telling stories through holiday snaps

There are a few photos I took which remind me of something I learnt or appreciated about Cuba. They may not be great pictures, but they tell me a personal story. This shop window is a case in point. I had been told that there are no advertising hoardings in Cuba – which is true – with the exception of ‘inspirational’ slogans on billboards all over the country. Perhaps as a result, shop windows were pretty basic – with an eclectic mix of products, none of which were displayed in a particularly enticing fashion. This was a noticeable exception – with unexpected products. Who knew household cleaning aids could be used to dress a shop window with such brio?

And here is another example of an unusual use of an everyday product. Look closely and you will see that it is a combination of a blanket and a towel, twisted to look like a man holding a baby. Most of the hotels we stayed in had chambermaids who practiced ‘towel art’ with swans, fans and weird towers – but this was by far the most creepy. We were almost afraid to undo it.

And finally, because I was told it was almost a trademark of Cuba we have the 1960’s ‘old timers’. For us, they are classics – for the Cubans, who only recently have been allowed to sell them, they are an essential part of their transport system.

Castro’s camp in the mountains

I’ve visited lots of castles and military posts in my time, but nothing quite like Castro’s guerilla camp. We had to drive for many hours to get there and stayed overnight in a basic but charming hotel where the rooms were self contained huts in the middle of the mountains. We were treated to torrential rain and a spectacular lightening storm as we ate in a covered verandah. It was amazing.

The following day we walked to the camp and it made it very clear how they were able to hide – it is quite remote and would have been well hidden before trees were cut down to make it more accessible. There was a ladder leading up to a false entry for Castro’s headquarters which could be collapsed if an enemy tried to enter. The real entry was a false wall which opened, garage door like, to let you in. There was a secret escape tunnel in the floor in case of attack. Accommodation was quite basic, but still livable and what struck me was the fact the there was segregation between officers and men – living and eating. Castro’s bed was obviously built on the spot, but I did wonder how they managed to get the fridge up there without it being noticed!

A challenging holiday

I recently went to Cuba and had a holiday that I won’t quickly forget – largely because it challenged some of my preconceptions. I guess I expected some sort of yoke of tyranny – but Fidel Castro appears to genuinely have stepped down while Raul Castro appears to be slowly trying to modernise the country. People are now able to start up private enterprises and you can see the pride that they have in their endeavours. We discovered a small restaurant – essentially the front room of a house – where the family had recently set up their own business.
They were absolutely shocked when we walked in – I think it was probably the biggest group they had catered for. The father had handed us the card for the restaurant in the street and the son ran the restaurant and did some rather good magic tricks at the end of the meal. The food was good, the atmosphere brilliant and the father and granddaughter walked us back to our hotel afterwards to be sure we got there safely. Of course there was the obligatory band in the doorway, playing ‘Guantanamera’ but somehow that added to the charm.

We take our private enterprise rights for granted – it is chastening to see how important it is to those who previously haven’t had that freedom.

Not wanting a white Christmas

I didn’t notice any big British desire for a white Christmas this year. Probably because the bad weather last year brought home the reality of the Christmas card snow. It did make me wonder where this cliche came from. I watched a lot of TV over the holidays (guilt free – because I took to the couch with a horrible cold) and it is a recurring theme. From ‘Lapland’ where snow was missing for a large part of the time to ‘Fast Freddy, the Widow and Me’ where it was artificially created to make the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Maybe it is because when Christmas became a tradition as it is today (I’m guessing Victorian times), December was colder so snow was what you got. A virtue of a necessity? Or am I creating my own myth?!

I’ve just spent 10 days in Uzbekistan and have come back with a wealth of photos and a lot of good memories.

Handing out the cleaning materials - Tashkent

One of the most noticeable things about the country – at least the places that we visited – was how clean it was. I should have realised why this was when we walked through a main square in Tashkent and saw a big cleaning exercise going on in preparation for the festival the next day. I also got one of my my most fortuitous photos – as the person cleaning the statue waved to friends and accidentally mirrored the pose of Amir Temur.

We saw one piece of litter in our entire holiday (an empty soft drink bottle). We clustered round it in amazement – assuming that this was left by a Western tourist and would soon be removed. Amazing.


…give peas a chance.

Made me laugh when I saw this food shop in Soho.

Take your rubbish home

This sort of thing really bugs me – people throwing their rubbish into the lake which is a local beauty spot. How difficult is it to take a can home? What bugs me more though, is that I actually like the photo.