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Monday, 07 March 2005
Rainbow Violins


I took this photograph at theRainbow Violin Company in Merstham, yesterday.  There is more information about them on this website, which also has a colour chart

Pinkie had a rainbow violin once, but currently has a traditional violin. She took another traditional violin on approval so that she can play it to her teacher.

Posted by bigblue on 07/03/2005 at 12:22 AM
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Saturday, 05 March 2005


Today I drove down to Surrey, picked Pinkie up from orchestra practice and then to buy a new violin (she took one on approval) and (in a different place) a new clarinet.  At each of the music shops Pinkie tried out several instruments, while I listened and browsed around. At the clarinet shop I found a fascinating book about Tai Hei Shakuhachi, Japanese bamboo flutes. It contained an interview with Monty Levenson who has manufactured flutes and shakuhachi in a community called Willits, in California, for about 35 years.  I have now found the interview on the web, thanks to Google, but I think that the version in the magazine shop was missing some interesting bits (e.g. the story of the pygmies). What wasn’t missing was how Levenson started explaining how the Shakuhachi differs from other ancient wind instruments:

Shakuhachi is a piece of bamboo with five holes in it. The end of the instrument is cut off at an angle which one blows across to produce a sound. Facts about shakuhachi are mixed with legend; nobody knows where one begins and the other leaves off. I believe what is historically filtered down to us through time - whether true or not - is relevant.

Some ethnomusicologists believe that an instrument of this type dates back to ancient Egypt. The shakuhachi was we know it, however, came to Japan from China. The legend that is most popular is that of Fuke, a Chinese zen monk who lived in the 10th century during the time of the T’ang Dynasty. Fuke ran around with a bell he would ring to the accompaniment of a poem. The essence of the poem he recited was that if you encounter somebody who is very bright, smack him on the head. If you encounter somebody who is dull, smack him on the head. In fact, if you encounter anything at all, smack it on the head. And if you encounter emptiness, in particular, be sure to smack it on the head severely!

Fuke was an eccentric to say the least. He was a madman who played a flute, rang a bell and smacked people on the head. Naturally he had a large following.

If I could play a musical instrument (other than my djembe) I would like to play one of those.

Posted by bigblue on 05/03/2005 at 11:09 PM
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Seven hours


This is the view through my bedroom skylight at seven this morning. 

I see that GeoURL is back again.  I must update my details - it thinks I am still in Haguenau.

Posted by bigblue on 05/03/2005 at 12:05 AM
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Friday, 04 March 2005
Seventeen hours


This is the view through my bedroom skylight at five this afternoon. 

This evening I wrote, in an email to a friend, that rabbits are already to be seen gambolling in the fields opposite.  I exaggerated: several large pregnant rabbit does reguarly drag their swollen bellies across the fields and laze outside the warren which is under the hedgrow seperating two fields.  However the little bunnies, who will no doubt throw on their delicate mortal coils in the coming weeks, gambol playfully around my mind all day, most days.

This evening I tidied my apartment: sorted and filed post, rearranged stuff: putting things in the dresser drawers rather than have them lying on top of the dresser. That kind of thing: as is wont to do. Now I can’t find some very important stuff.  Still, the half-full-half-empty rule tells me that at least my bills will be paid this month.

At lunchtime today I went with a colleague to The Ferrers Centre in Staunton Harold for a delicious soup lunch. Kate’s usual Friday lunch partner is having a long weekend in New York.  The place has a nice atmosphere and is reasonably priced. I took away leaflets, and will go back some time to look around at the craft shops.

Posted by bigblue on 04/03/2005 at 11:13 PM
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Thursday, 03 March 2005


Londonist drew my attention to a Channel 4 dispatch this evening entitled Confessions of a Parking Attendent, which goes into the shenanigans of the local government fund-raisers.

Two weeks ago I had a run in of my own with a traffic officer in London.  At the time I wondered if he was mentally challenged, but subsequently I have decided that he was probably just single-mindedly attempting to meet his revenue targets regardless of the circumstances he was confronted with. Here is a letter I wrote to the Croyden Council yesterday

2 March 2005

Croyden Council
Parking and Departmental Support Services
PO Box 1462
Croyden, CR9 1WX

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to complain about the ticket that was issued to me in South End, Croyden on 19 February 2005 at 13:00.

I had been parked for a few minutes and was busy going door-to-door down the street asking for change for a £20 note so that I could purchase a ticket to display under my windshield. This was within the knowledge of the officer who issued me with the ticket because I had discussed the matter with him and this is what he had advised me to do.

Imagine my surprise when I returned within 5 minutes to find that he had issued me with a ticket, after telling my waiting daughter that it was my obligation to have the necessary change to purchase a parking ticket before parking my car. If this is true then I think this is in itself an unfair and impractical law, which has never been clearly communicated. Furthermore I would have expected the traffic official to communicate this immediately (so that I could chose to drive away and shop elsewhere) rather than tell me to purchase a ticket and then (when I proceeded to do so) to issue a fine. I would also like to note that, upon issuing my fine, the official left the area of South End instead of continuing his inspection down the road.

I draw your attention to the January 2005 public forum by the London Assembly Transport Committee, which heard that local authorities have contracts with parking enforcement agencies that set targets for the number of tickets issued.  Representations were made at this forum that if London boroughs want the public to comply with parking regulations they need to show that regulations are eing applied fairly and effectively. Lynne Featherstone AM, Chair of the Transport Committee was quoted in the press as saying ”If boroughs want compliance, regulations have to be fair and fairly applied. There was agreement by organisations at the meeting that parking controls should be harmonised across London where possible. This should reduce fines resulting from confusion about when and where to park by motorists and by vehicles delivering goods to businesses. It would also seem that councils need to communicate better with residents and drivers about how and why controls are implemented in their area”.

I attach herewith my penalty notice as well as the pay and display ticket which I purchased in order to legally park in the South End of Croyden at the time I was fined.  I ask you to withdraw the penalty that was unfairly levied against me.


The quote from Lynne Featherstone can be found here and her blog can be read here.

Posted by bigblue on 03/03/2005 at 11:21 PM
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Wednesday, 02 March 2005
And still it snowed


This is the scene this morning from my bedroom skylight window. You can see my neighbour leaving for work in his car. Heavy snow in the South of England has resulted in chaos and the army being mobilised.

Regarding the government’s draconian new laws I think Simon Carr of the Independent Newspaper makes a good point. He starts by quoting lacky Hazel Blears:

A different form of decision-making will be used from that which applies when people are arrested on the basis that they have already committed an offence. This point goes to the heart of the matter ... control orders are designed to deal with not only what has happened but what might happen.

Carr goes on to comment that

These new powers she is describing are to be applied to people who haven’t broken the law. People who haven’t already committed an offence. That is an entirely new legal principle. Under these proposals, people may be arrested on the say so of the minister of the Interior. They need not be told who is accusing them, nor what the charge is, not the evidence against them. And now we learn, they may not even have committed an offence! But, you will say, there are shoe bombers left and right, planning to blow up aircraft; clearly they must be restrained before they commit the offence.

Excuse me? Planning to blow up a plane is an offence. Consipiracy. Wasn’t there some bedsit Muslim in west London arrested a couple of years ago for having a map of Heathrow? For possessing material to be used in an act of terrorism? The powers exist already. If you commit an offence you are liable for arrest. If you have a map of Heathrow and they think you’re dodgy they can arrest you. Ms Blears is saying you don’t even have to have the map. You can be arrested even though you have not already committed an offence.

Regarding my mention of Barbara Follett yesterday, I see the BBC has her listed as a bold rebel, signifying that she voted against the government in the first and second votes.

Posted by bigblue on 02/03/2005 at 09:51 PM
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Tuesday, 01 March 2005
Snow more


This is the sunrise that wasn’t, because the sky was grey and dark this morning.  It shows the same view as the photo yesterday, but lacks the glory. The snow on the roof has melted, and there are a few flakes falling.  It is now March and I can’t believe we will have any more significant snowfalls until next winter.

Having lived for much of my life in South Africa, I was interested to read the speech by Barbara Follett against the draconian “anti-terrorism” measures proposed by the UK government.  Barbara was married to activist Rick Turner, who was murdered by the apartheid regime on 9 January 1978.  (With a nod to the Observer blog for their pointer and comment - which questioned why she failed to register a vote on the issue).

Posted by bigblue on 01/03/2005 at 10:35 PM
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