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Saturday, 11 August 2007
Buyer beware?


Is it buyer beware or, as the freesheet on the London underground suggested earlier this week, will the housing market in the UK continue to boom? And what’s happening to the markets?

Posted by bigblue on 11/08/2007 at 05:32 AM
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Friday, 10 August 2007


I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to post lately. Just this dodgey photo of a subway in South East London as I follow my colleagues to another work function. I’ll submit this later on my way home, possibly in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Posted by bigblue on 10/08/2007 at 12:05 AM
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Tuesday, 07 August 2007
A Millstone

Millstone fountain

It may be a fountain, but the distinctive shape and grooves mark it out as a millstone, probably from a water mill. Looking at it reminds me of the expression “to have a millstone around one’s neck, which is apparently a biblical phrase referring to a form of capital punishment.

Last night I went to see The Rising : Ballad of Mangal Pandey at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair, London.  This formed part of a programme to celebrate the 60th year of India’s independence.  Despite being sentimental and melodramatic (think of an Indian Braveheart) I was glad to have seen the film as it covers an important period of Indian history:

In the 19th century the entire Indian sub continent is ruled by a company: The British East India Company, the most successful business enterprise in history. Set in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, told across the divides of time, The Rising tells the tale of friends, lovers and enemies, exploiters and exploited, and the growth and awareness of a man and a nation. It is a story of one man and his dream of freedom. This sweeping epic is based on real historical events, seen as a trigger for India’s struggle for independence, but is laced with fictional episodes that make it more of a fantasy than a true biopic.

Produced by Bobby Bedi and directed by Ketan Mehta, the film stars Aamir Khan, Ameesha Patel and British actor Toby Stephens.

Posted by bigblue on 07/08/2007 at 10:32 PM
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Monday, 06 August 2007
Graffiti tags in history

Scouting Shakespeare's birthplace

I was looking through my photos of Stratford yesterday when I came across this one, of a scout in front of Shakespeare’s birthplace. The town was swarming with scouts (from many nationalities, and of both genders), no doubt because of the Centenary Jamboree.

According to Michael Rosenthal:

Scouting explicitly developed out of the trauma of the Boer war and the anxieties it unleashed concerning the deterioration of Britain’s manhood. One of the ways Baden-Powell sold the scouts to the nation was by stressing the critical role they could play in preparing the rising generation for the next war. As he cautions at the start of Scouting for Boys, “Every boy ought to learn how to shoot and obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman.”

To accept the militarism of scouting’s origins and early ideals is not to undercut the value of scouting or to suggest that it didn’t develop in different ways over the next eighty years. But why must we pretend that its origins were not what they were?

Hopefully when the Scout movement opened to girls as well as boys it addressed some of this. Still the making of a man by sam pullen suggets that some of the skills the Scouts learnt could be used to challenge the inequalities within the movement.

Another comment on the photograph above: the windows were replaced when Shakespeare’s birthplace was restored last century. However inside there is a display of the previous set of windows which were marked by visitors scratching their names in the glass.  As Shakespeare’s birthplace had become a site of pilgrimage for many people the “graffiti” includes famous names, including Thomas Carlyle the essayist and historian, Walter Scott, novelist and poet, Ellen Terry the actress, and Henry Irving the actor.  It seems they could have done with ASBOs in the good old days…

Posted by bigblue on 06/08/2007 at 06:57 PM
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Sunday, 05 August 2007
Could be anywhere

A place to avoid.

Link du jour: Mandela made of M&Ms to celebrate his birthday last month.  (Well it was actually done as a marketing exercise).

Posted by bigblue on 05/08/2007 at 09:59 PM
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Saturday, 04 August 2007
Another Earthsea Travesty


Tales from Earthsea is finally being released in the UK a year after its Japanese release. Ryan Gilbey’s review suggests it is another disappointment:

Tales from Earthsea, based on two books in Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea series, is directed by the son of the great Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. Apparently, Miyazaki Sr fell out with his son after advising him that he was not yet ready to direct. All I can say in this context is that you should always listen to your father.

The picture begins with patricide: the teenage Prince Arren of Enlad stabs the king for no apparent reason. (Maybe he told him not to become a film director.) Fleeing the scene of his crime, Arren meets the wizard Sparrowhawk, with whom he seeks sanctuary on a farm. This is the most enchanting part of the film, possibly because the sight of a wizard working a plough represents a gentle riposte to all the noisy summer blockbusters. Then there’s the charmingly quaint dialogue - “I love the smell of new-turned earth,” purrs Sparrowhawk - which articulates the story’s plea for people to get in touch with the earth, a point that would be made more forcefully if only the film could get in touch with its audience.

Unfortunately, Tales from Earthsea is too remote to hold the interest of viewers of any age. Even the central conflict, with Sparrowhawk shielding Arren from the evil wizard Cob, who wants the boy’s soul to help him achieve immortality, is downright confusing. The standard of the animation is as exemplary as ever, but this counts for nought without the rudiments of story and characterisation.

Read the full review, catch a three minute trailer from Japanese television, and see my previous comments on the TV mini-series.

Posted by bigblue on 04/08/2007 at 11:23 PM
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Friday, 03 August 2007
Four out of two days

Outside Chennai Dosa

Inside Chennai Dosa

Do you think that eating four green chilli and coriander Dosas in 48 hours can be bad for one? My enquiring mind (if not some other part of my anatomy) wants to know…

Posted by bigblue on 03/08/2007 at 11:44 PM
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Wednesday, 01 August 2007
You are here on the M25

M25 accidents

Officially named the London Orbital, nicknamed the ‘Road to Hell’, and frequently derided as nothing more than a very big car park, this is London’s outermost beltway, one of the world’s biggest ring roads - the M25.

Despite all this, the M25 isn’t even a full circle. The Dartford Crossing (comprising the Dartford Tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge) over the Thames in the east and its approach roads are designated A282, because the first Tunnel was built in the 1960s as a local connection. A second tunnel was added, and because it was a dual carriageway, 1980s planners considered it eminently suitable for routing the M25 through. It remained A282 nonetheless, and has since been adorned with a bridge to double its capacity.

It’s not just the biggest ring road in the world, it has other accolades. This was the most expensive motorway Britain ever built, coming in at a total of £909m in eleven years, or roughly £7.5m per mile. Since then it hasn’t exactly been cheap to maintain, with a cable stayed bridge to double up capacity at Dartford, countless widening schemes and now expensive things like Variable Speed Limits in desperate attempts to keep traffic moving.

The eternal question is: why is a simple ring road, a 360-degree bypass of a city, so badly congested? There appear to be three principal reasons. First, as a sweetener to locals along the route, junctions were dropped in all over the place. They allowed the road to be built, but allowed lots of local traffic onto what was intended as a long-distance route. It also means the road is now used by many commuters. Second, it was meant to be the outermost of three or four ring roads for London; not counting the inner ring road and South Circular, which are signed routes along city streets, it is currently the outermost of one and a half ring roads. Thirdly, and partly for the reasons above, the demand for this road was so grossly underestimated that when it was finally completed in 1986, it was already out of date. Demand outstripped capacity within a few short years and ever since then it’s been a long and expensive battle to make things move once more.

From: cbrd via Weekly Gripe.

Posted by bigblue on 01/08/2007 at 11:48 PM
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