Saturday, August 22, 2009

All form is impermanent

including this blog................

Just a note to those who check in to this blog periodically that I am planning to make this my last entry unless something truly unexpected happens.

There is so much I could and would have liked to have written on in recent months but my current life of work and family commitments does not seem to leave me the time !

Maybe some other blog will arise in due course. However I think the time has come to close this one. In the last year I have struggled to decide whether it is really a political blog, really an account of my periodic travels or really a personal moan about all I see as wrong in the world !

I still enjoy reading a number of blogs and continue to do so (I hope they know who they are)

I just want to conclude my own blog for now.

I admire all those who juggle schedules more demanding than mine and still manage to produce an interesting blog. I don't know how they do it !

So for now, I wish anyone who lands here all the best.

Nothing in this world lasts forever so make the most of the moment you have !

Best wishes to all who have ever read or commented on this blog.

The great city of London is still here but this Londoner will be devoting his time to other things from here on.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some corner of a foreign field

We visited Flanders this weekend, staying in Brugge.

Whenever I am in northern France or western Belgium I am always drawn to the many war cemeteries of WWI that are scattered over the countryside.
I visited a few with my own Father and I find them moving yet peaceful at the same time. The peace is in great contrast to the horrific events that occured around them.

This time was no exception and I was delighted for the first time be able to hear the last post played in Ypres (Leper being the Belgian name) at the Menem Gate memorial. This is something that has happened every single day since 1928, as a sign of remembrance for the vast allied casualties suffered in the area.

It is one of life's coincidences that this weekend when we visited Ypres and a couple of nearby cemeteries, saw the passing of the last British survivor of the trenches, Harry Patch. That he and Henry Allingham who died a week before should have lived well past 110 seems like a special gift that in recent years has served to strengthen the memory of what is probably the greatest calamity to be suffered by Britain. With almost a million deaths there is no single event that has caused so many British deaths than WWI.

It is sad that the last of the WWI veterans have now passed on but remarkable that it should be 2009 before the last veteran from a war that ended in 1918 has died.

The many cemeteries in Flanders are worth visiting. This was my first visit with my two year old son and probably one of the reasons why I forgot to take a map. I was looking for the vast cemetery at Passchendale but we ended up at the Polygon Wood and Buttes New British Cemeteries close to Ypres. The photo below was taken yesterday, the day when the last veteran passed away.

Here the remains of a trench can be seen. What was once open battleground is now a mature forest.

WWI in many ways seems the most pointless of wars. The powers fighting each other were in many respects similar. This was no titanic struggle for freedom like WWII. Yet due to the terrible mistakes that have been so widely documented, millions of men died in a tiny area of Europe.

The words of Rupert Brooke capture the feeling that a part of Flanders will be for ever England:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blessed by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts a peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Arrested for taking a photo in Chatham High Street

Here is another example of the erosion of liberty.

It is not just the Met Police who seem to have lost sight of what their true role is . Here it occurred in Chatham, a town some 30 miles from London.

The photograher's own account described how he was arrested for taking photographs of an old flyover being demolished and of a fish and chip shop !

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swine flu in the office

Swine flu seems to have created two tribes. First there is probably a majority of people outwardly blahsay about the whole business, pointing out that normal flu is just as bad if not worse and we should all keep things in perspective. Second there is another group who are actually quite alarmed, refer to history that viruses can mutate and get worse and think we are not out of the woods yesterday.

If anything I am slightly embarrassed to say I sit in the second group. Not that I feel in mortal danger this minute but I remember cases of normal flu that were quite bad enough for my liking. The last time I got the flu was just after Christmas 2007. We visited Bluewater shopping centre on Boxing Day so perhaps I deserved some divine punishment. I remember my legs starting to ache while waiting with my son in his pram outside Boots. After that it was downhill pretty quickly and I was sent into quarantine in the spare room only emerging to visit the bathroom while covering my nose and mouth in an old sock soaked in tee tree oil. Such precautions worked as despite being in the same house my wife and son (then 6 months old) never caught that flu.

I hadn't felt so ill in a long while and remember time passing both very fast and then very slow. I moved from sweats to cold and couldn't keep any food down for a couple of days. Almost delerious, I watched David Dimbleby driving about in a Landrover talking about the history of Britain and multiple episodes of "Who do you think you are ?" including Bill Oddie and Ian Hislop (almost delerious is probably one of the few reasonable excuses for watching such programmes !!!) Anyway I survived and the recovery once it came was quite fast. Nonetheless I remember that normal flu can be a nasty business and I do not dismiss Swine Flu.

Britain is now number 3 in the swine flu charts (behind the US and Mexico) and London is a hot spot within Britain. Therefore I am really in the wrong place. My office now has its first cases of swine flu, although there also seem to be a growing number of "suspected" or "possible" swine flu cases. The real picture is a bit unclear but with a week of sick leave more or less guaranteed I can see some room for abuse.

The alcohol gel dispensers going up around the place are the only real outward sign of something happening.

Meanwhile many Londoners have to travel in packed public transport full of sneezing and coughing fellow passengers. When you sit on a packed train in London you realise that London is really a rather unhealthy place. I cannot imagine that many people permenantly have coughs and colds in the Alps or by the ocean. In packed cities with not enough fresh air we stuggle to avoid the next bug whatever it may be.

This year it is swine flu and the makers of "hand sanitizers" must be making a fortune.....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good Old Steve Bell

There's something I thought I would never write !

However I have recently been following a lot of the cartoonists in the mainstream quality newspapers (Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent) and have been coming to realise the power of them as a means of expression.

The one below is simply brilliant, not to mention tragic and saddening. Good old Steve Bell- there I go again !

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Neda: A martyr for freedom (everywhere)

A natural reaction to the sad and shocking of Neda Soltani is to try and give her a purpose far bigger than she would have had if she had lived and far bigger than all of us who are currently still living.

That seems to be an attempt to bring a shred of moral justice to a situation that is so wrong, so at least those who have died young and violent deaths can be elevated above the rest of us who live on in this troubled world.

One thing that is worth noting about her death is she was not a hard core activist but a hesitant participant, little more than an observer who when getting out of a car for fresh air paid the ultimate price that can be paid in the pursuit of freedom.

There is much talk about the harm that meddling can do the cause of freedom in Iran so as someone from a country with a less than perfect past in the region I will not comment this time on the specifics of the election and the key players. At its heart, this crisis is about a people who want freedom that has been denied to them for so long. The regime seems set on retaining power by cheating, lying and ultimately by killing those who appear to pose a threat to them.

Neda was in the wrong place at the wrong time but she is only dead because of the brutality of the regime she lived under.

Without burdening her memory with a host of meanings she would never have intended, let her be remembered for a very long time as someone who paid with their life in the pursuit of freedom. She was someone not very different from most people; not a street fighter but a nervous supporter of freedom.

May she be a symbol of the price that sometimes must be paid for freedom whether in Iran or in any country of the world. Sometimes these struggles end in greater freedom as in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, but sometimes they end in further repression as in China in 1989.

Even in countries that think of themselves as free such as Britain can still experience moments of repression where the innocent get killed at the the hands of rogue elements of the state such as the victims of police brutality in London.

Neda, in her death has transcended the borders of her country and is a face recognised around the world. May she be a symbol of freedom everywhere in the same league as the man who disappeared after standing in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. More specifically may she advance the cause of freedom in her own country.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran: Old and New media compared



33 minutes ago
Protesters beaten, tear-gassed in streets


Iranian police have used water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds to break up protests over the presidential election, witnesses in Tehran say.
A BBC reporter said he saw one man shot and others injured amid running fights.
Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi repeated calls for the election to be annulled on the grounds it was rigged.
US President Barack Obama urged Iran's government "to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people", saying the "world is watching".

NEW The dreadful reality of repression that is so much more than teargas and water cannon Incredible and disturbing scenes from the streets of Iran.

Tehran Bureau Twitter Feed

Conf'd Iran Fatemiyeh Hospital Tehran: 30-40 dead as of 11pm; 200 injured. Police taking names of incoming injured. #iranelection from HootSuite

Omid07 says Basij base burned by protesters at Navab St. (South Tehran) from web

Omid007 says: Security Forces attacked Khomeini Hospital to arrest injured protesters, it is said at least 30 injured are there... from web

according to same private listserv source, "People from all around Tehran are gathering to march into the city later at night." from web

unloaded massive amounts of guns for more than 500 basijies whom had been sent there several hours earlier to confront the demonstrators. from web

Reports from Tehran, Azadi St., Sanati Sharif University indicate that more that 10 helicopters landed inside the university, from web

Fatemiyeh Hospital Tehran: 30-40 dead as of 11pm; 200 injured. Police taking names of incoming injured. from web

directly from source who spoke to someone at hospital: from web

omid007 reports at least 10 protesters shot By Basij, Bassij opened gunfire on people at Haft Hooz SQ. from web

good source: Hospital close to the scene in Tehran: 30-40 dead thus far as of 11pm and 200 injured. Police taking names of incoming injured. from web

pray for us... u can be a great help to spread the news..." end quote from web

From FB: u aren't here in iran to see what's really happening to us... they are just hitting and killing our people freely... from web

Iran Twazzup page

RT @sissyto4 SO VERY TRUE! RT @ObamaResistance : Obama has been more critical of Fox News than the Iranian govt! #tcot #Iranelection #obama

In short, the new media is proving itself far more adept at covering an unfolding story that the world should know about. It is clear dreadful events are happening on the streets of Iran tonight.

The Demonstration

Most major news outlets are still reporting that a large opposition demonstration will go ahead at 16:00 Tehran time (12.30 London).

There is an air of foreboding about this following the remarks by the Supreme Leader of Iran that:

"The candidates in the election should be very careful what they say and how they behave," he said. "If they want to break the law, they will be responsible for the bloodshed, for the riots taking place and for any form of unrest."

Having had nothing to do with Iran in my life, my interest in this is simply a recognition that a growing number of Iranians want freedom. What passes for democracy in Iran seems anything but and the irony of a state that claims to be based on pious principles is that when an election does not deliver the result it wants, it seems more than willing to fix the result.

We can only hope that the people of Iran in some way prevail against the elite forces that seek to repress them. This may be an Iranian issue to be settled in Iran but it is a cause that all those who value freedom can relate to.

Here is a link to Zahra Rahnavard's facebook page. She is the wife of the opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The history of this man is far from spotless but if he recognises the need for greater freedom he is probably the best hope the people of Iran have.

My hope for today is that the forces of repression do not triumph. It is something that seems far from certain. Whatever happens today it is certain that the seeds of freedom have been sowed in Iran and the internet has taken a significant part in that. What harvest is reaped remains to be seen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of mice and men

Just for a change, a rather more light hearted look at recent events...........

Picture Credit to

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The real face of the Iranian government

Alleged film this evening of a raid by Basij miliitia on university dormitories:

Twitter's moment ?

Up until now I have always been rather sceptical about the merits of Twitter. Who wants to know what X-celebrity is thinking at this moment or that Y is currently visiting Tescos ?!

However the uprisings in Iran may turn out to be Twitter's moment. Twitter offers the opportunity to distribute information, photos and videos in the most convenient way and people can do it from mobile phones and on the move.

The Iran Unrest Twazzup Twitter page is thoroughly recommended. It includes contributions from Iran and around the world and includes constantly updating advise on which proxy servers to use to evade the censors as well as collaboration on cyber attacks on Iranian government websites.

The outcome of these events is very far for certain but it seems that Twitter is offering a tool to the man in the street in the ongoing fights against big and repressive governments everywhere.

If they are brave enough to take these videos

............ the least we can do is to circulate them

June 15th, 2009Tehran Streetsخرداد ۲۵ ۱۳۸۸تهراننیروهای بسیجی‌ با تیر اندازی به تظاهرات صلح طلبانه ۸ نفر را کشته و صد‌ها رازخمی کردند.Shootings in Tehran streets.Pro-government militia troops reportedly opened fire on a previously peaceful election protest in Tehran, killing at least 8

koshtar havali meidan azadi dar yek padegan basij

Monday, June 15, 2009


As the Iranian authorities seem to be moving to block key internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as jamming some satellite transmissions, I thought I would include links to a few of best blogs and internet sites related to the uprising in Iran. Very powerful collection of protest photographs Updating blog of photos and videos from Tehran Constantly updating twitter feed of information, photos and videos National Iranian American Council translation of Farsi twitter messages into English. Huffington Post - live blogging of the uprising

UPDATE: A Flickr user is compiling a record of photos of the uprising as they are received via Twitter Photos on Daylife site