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Thursday, 30 September 2004
Autumn leaves

The Bothy

It’s my second week and I’m settling into the bothy. The weather has definitely changed, although this afternoon was glorious and I was tempted to try some roller-blading after work. In the end I was too tired and it got dark quickly. I didn’t make it to the driving range either.

I’m having some more problems with my laptop: this time the adaptor has gone, and my painful experiences trying to order a new one from Dell are still a bit raw to recount.  I can’t help feeling that if they hadn’t outsourced their support staff to an Indian phone bank it would have gone smoother.  I have had worse experiences with English and Irish staff at other companies, but that’s not a very positive statement eh?

Well, the clock is ticking ... I ordered a new adaptor last night and we will see how long it takes to arrive.  In summary: I am on day two and have now placed two separate orders, phoned Dell support and sales four times, and responded to one email from them. It’s a bit of a merry-go-round:

The farmer’s in the dell ,
the farmer’s in the dell,
hey-ho the merry-oh,
the farmer’s in the dell.

Edit: With thanks to my colleague Lynn for her careful proof-reading of my blog, I have corrected the perennial error of typing seperate instead of separate (28.04.2005).


Posted by bigblue on 30/09/2004 at 11:21 PM
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Tuesday, 28 September 2004
Les réflexions


I don�t think that I have posted a photo on this theme before, and I sort of stumbled across this one, the night before I moved out of Anne and John�s house.  This is a reflected view of the blue plate bedroom.

Just before moving out of this room I bought one of the paintings hanging on the wall.  John painted it and it is entitled The Walnut Tree in old France. It is not in the photo above.

Posted by bigblue on 28/09/2004 at 09:19 PM
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Master Park in Autumn

Oxted Master Park

It’s that time of the year when the trustees of Master Park allow the tacky fun-fair to set up shop, play tacky music and extort huge sums of money from the children and teenagers of Oxted to have short thrill rides or to try to win a soft fluffy toy. 

I guess that the trustees of the park need the income. 

Something pretty bizarre happened late last week: An Al-Qaida suspect, who has been detained without charge for over two years in Belmarsh, South London, issued an appeal to the kidnappers of the British civilian Ken Bigley.  He said

To those holding Ken Bigley, in the name of Allah the Magnificent, the Merciful, I am Mahmoud Abu Rideh (Abu Rasmi). I am a Palestinian prisoner, I have myself been tortured by the Israelis. I have been held indefinitely now nearly three years under unjust laws in England which do not tell me why I am imprisoned. I know what it is like to suffer injustice and torture. I ask you to release this man.

He is apparently known to the kidnappers of Bigley, having set up and run a school in Afghanistan which several of their children attended.  I read about the story in the Independent print edition. It is available for a fee here.  A free version of the same article by Robert Fisk is available here and here.  It seems these are abbreviated versions of the original.

BBC and others seem to have totally ignored this story.  They are focusing on the appeal two British Muslim clergy, who have travelled to Iraq to plea/campaign for Bigley’s release. These clerics have said in a statement that Bigley is a victim just like the people of Fallujah, the eastern city in Iraq which has endured a weekend of US raids, and should not be punished. They have been working with Sunni, Shia and Christian communities in Iraq, but are due to return to the UK on Monday. 

Bigley is the first UK hostage in Iraq, but he is one of over a hundred people kidnapped in Iraq since last year. Most are Iraqis.  Hence the wide publicity in the UK over his situation. There has been some debate over the media frenzy surrounding him, and several people have echoed Margaret Thatcher’s statement about publicity being the oxygen of terrorists.

Posted by bigblue on 28/09/2004 at 01:07 AM
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Monday, 27 September 2004
Flying Horse Cantonese Restaurant

Flying Horse Cantonese Restaurant

A right dubious honour is to be the first establishment spotted with your Christmas decorations up. Especially when it is still September.

In this case the (dis)honour lies with this restaurant, near Marksfield in Leicestershire, which I spotted earlier this evening.  Of course it may be a coincidence and the fancy lights were put up to mark some other event, such as the official end of summer last week.  But I suspect not.

Posted by bigblue on 27/09/2004 at 01:12 AM
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Sunday, 26 September 2004
Most improved pub

Nottingham pub

The banner above the doorway of this pub in Nottingham claims that it is the “Most improved pub winner”.  A rather dubious title, a bit like the annual “effort” prize at school.

I have to be careful though, as Scarlett won her school house Year 10 Effort Commendation prize at the senior prize-giving ceremony on Thursday evening. This was one of about 100 awards dished out. I left work early and drove down to be there as it was a big event for her: She played in the Jazz band at the start of the ceremony,  sang Cantique de Jean Racine by Fauré with the school choir, and did a short speech in which she read her own non-fiction piece of work entitled What we learn outside the classroom re: Mark Twain’s essay on Education.

It was a good speech. It’s a pity I left my camera in the car. After the ceremony was over I drove back up to Ashby, and got in just before the pumpkin hour.

Posted by bigblue on 26/09/2004 at 12:02 AM
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Friday, 24 September 2004
A Spanish Abbey in Nottingham


On Wednesday night I went into Nottingham with Steven and Rory. We had some tapas at La Tosca, and then went to the bar next door for some drinks.  Nottinham has quite a vibrant night life, with lots of young and beautiful people. Apparently there are also more bars per square mile than any other place in the UK. There also seemed to be 3 or 4 women for every man. Perhaps it was just the places that Steven took us to.  It is good to see women out enjoying themselves, and obviously feeling safe and secure in doing so. It is pity that they are as involved in the irresponsible drinking culture as the lads.

On the way back to my car I stopped to take a photo (above) of a branch of Abbey National in the city centre.  Some people are concerned that the Spanish are taking over Abbey, because the last time they took over an English Abbey was in the 1600’s and they turned the basement into an inquisition chamber.

Posted by bigblue on 24/09/2004 at 10:13 PM
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Wednesday, 22 September 2004
La Cour

la cour

Today is the autumn equinox, so officially the end of summer. The above photo is of Anne’s courtyard. On the table is a crystal and a bottle of water. I am not sure what Anne was doing there before I got “home”, perhaps gathering energies or enjoying the last sunshine of this year.

The big news of the day is the hostage crisis in Iraq. As of today two Americans were killed and a Briton is under threat of imminent execution.  I was reading information today about Zarqawi, the man who is alleged to be behind these kidnappings.  I started at the Worldhistory article on Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad which is the name of his organisation and means Monotheism and Holy Struggle.  From there I linked to the purported Zarqawi letter of 12 February 2004 which is a fascinating insight into his ideological beliefs and his strategies and tactics in Iraq.  From this site (the Coalition Provisional Authority) I found a number of interesting documents, including the list of all coalition prisoners.  It seems there are (or were on 12 January 2004) some 10,388 prisoners (assuming this list is complete).  Unfortunately the list is in Arabic, because I would have been interested to see how many women’s names appear on the list.  (As of today, the authorities tell us that there are only 2 women prisoners in Iraq).

There’s a nice touch on the website of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Under Consolidated Weekly Reports it says

For security reasons, there are no security reports.

Posted by bigblue on 22/09/2004 at 06:50 PM
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Friday, 17 September 2004
The view from the manor


This is the view from my bedroom this evening, over the cow pastures and fields looking in the direction of Ashby.  It was disappointingly grey today - I suppose that I shouldn’t have tempted fate yesterday.

Today I am reminded about how difficult it is to find good cheap accommodation on the internet. This is because of all the commercial portals who clog the search results, and who add very little value to the consumer. They just provide a barrier to getting onto the guesthouse/hotel’s own website, they often try to extort an extra charge, and they make it very difficult to find hotels for a particular location because they put so many towns in the UK into their keywords, even if they don’t service those towns very well.  So rather than searching for accommodation on Google, use Smooth Hound’s UK Hotel and Guest House Directory.

Posted by bigblue on 17/09/2004 at 08:43 PM
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