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England

Friday, 03 February 2006
Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the Year of the Dog

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Garden Decorations

I accidentally slouched towards this display of garden decorations on the Moira Road of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. As spring is only slowly creeping into our mornings and evenings, I couldn’t get a daytime shot, but will try again over the coming week.  One wonders what type of person decorates their garden like this, and what does this have in common with examples of French bad taste?

The overwhelming theme of the above picture is that of dalmation dogs, with some toadstools, gnomes, tortoise, a young girl and a wishing well thrown in.  There are a large number (101?) dalmations in the windows and doorways too.  All this is under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera which implies that the garden is a target for local delinquents.

What can all these dogs symbolise (besides for general tackiness and bad taste):

Dog: symbol of Loyalty and Love

One of the domesticated dog’s greatest attribute is the capacity for unconditional love. He helps protect the family from bad feelings toward one another. Dogs have long served as guardians for man. They are infinitely loyal and steadfast in loving kindness, service and protection.

One can learn many things from the dog:

  * The joy of service
  * Loyalty
  * Sensitivity to “sniffing out” dangerous situations
  * Faithful companionship
  * The true meaning of unconditional love

I cannot argue with any of the above, except to point out that a dalmation is a carriage dog which is bred for its decorative value rather than its intelligence or utilitarian value. 

Despite the heading of this post I do not think that these decorations are related to the Chinese Year of the Dog.

Posted by bigblue on 03/02/2006 at 12:40 AM
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Wednesday, 01 February 2006
Masala Club

Masala Club - Ashby-de-la-Zouch

This evening five of us from work (four thorns and a rose) went to the Masala Club, on Market Street in Ashby-de-la-Zouch for supper.  This is where James Ots went last year in March. (I don’t know why I am mentioning that except that James Ots seems so desperate for google to rank him highly, that I feel I should help out by linking to his site.  (I checked and he is ninth at the moment in Google, although his blogger profile comes up first).  According to Thumbshots (IE required) he is better off in Yahoo, although their data is a bit out of date.

Anyway the meal was good. We had a starter and a main each, although Andy had a dessert too. Afterall he’s still a growing lad! I had a vegetarian samoosa starter, and a vegetable briyani for my main. I may have made a mistake in bragging that my own briyani is better than the Masala Cafe’s: it looks like I will now have to prove it!

Posted by bigblue on 01/02/2006 at 10:05 PM
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Monday, 30 January 2006
Just fallen

Oxted Master Park

I was taking photographs on Master Park about 17 months ago when this mother, daughter and baby came walking by.  I was waiting for them to pass when the daughter tripped, burst into tears and was soothed by her mother. I caught most of the soothing, and then managed a final shot as they walked past. The girl sported one of those all-better-now smiles.  For full-size picture click here.

Today I found some links to some more Flickr tools at Pam Blackstone’s blog.  If nothing else you should look at this beautiful fibonacci spiral.

I also found the Jane Austen jokes page. Here’s a sample:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single chicken, being possessed of a good fortune and presented with a good road, must be desirous of crossing.

This is a subpage of the Jane Austen Info Page.

Posted by bigblue on 30/01/2006 at 09:34 PM
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Sunday, 29 January 2006
Frenetic longeurs

telephones

I took the above photograph at a service station on the M40, near Lighthorne.  I liked the orange light in the phone booths, the fact that they were deserted, and was struck how rapidly they are starting to become relics of our recent past. There are already more mobile telephones in the world today than there are fixed ones. China alone has 270 million mobile phone subscribers.

I recently read two interesting articles on the effects of information technology on the human condition.  The first, Why the world went mobile by Dan Schiller, was in Le Monde Diplomatic. The English version is behind a subscribers-only wall but the French version is available in full.  In the article Schiller argues

Frenetic market development efforts are evident in every niche in the emerging mobile economy. There is hothouse innovation in wireless technology. The stakes could hardly be higher: wireless grows ever larger within the telecommunications sector, and worldwide mobiles in use already outnumber landline telephones. It seems likely that wireless has not yet achieved its full potential.

The huge promotional effort has led to a major social transformation. The marvel of mobility is the outcome of years of corporate-led neoliberalism, but it has within it deep-rooted predatory and chaotic tendencies.

He talks about a global wireless market [that] has been balkanised by incompatible networking standards developed by rival corporate consortia and the locking-in of subscribers and how the competitive market, beholden to neoliberal policymakers, has created overcapacity across the telecommunications industry, yet inadequate network investment by individual carriers.  Yet Shiller stresses how the demand for ubiquitous communication is socially created:

There is no innate human need for perpetual contact. Economic players decide whether a particular technology will develop. The need for constant connectivity signifies a transition into a new phase of mobile privatisation - a term coined 30 years ago by the great cultural critic and theorist Raymond Williams.

The second article is On the Way to Life, published by the Catholic Education Service.  This is a longer and more wide-ranging article but it has a section called Frenetic Longeurs which talks about the distortion of time as a feature of contemporary cultures:

At one level, this can be seen in the way in which the technology which promised to convert time to leisure produces the sensation of a time-space compression: there seems to be less time than there used to be. To take two ordinary examples: the speed of communication by email and the internet have both transformed our access to information but both have increased the demand upon us to respond. Indeed, it may be that the ubiquity of the humble mobile telephone is the enduring icon of this experience. We cannot believe that it is necessary to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but advertisers seek to persuade us that, without it, we are non-persons: no telephone, no significance; we are cut off from our network, adrift in the silent cosmos, lost in a black hole of non-identity, no longer able to order our take-away or impose the trivia of our life upon others in the train, underground, or street. The irony is that this very symbol of in-touchness only serves to show the poverty of our communication and loss of our private space.

I do not agree with all the arguments raised, nor am I sure which ones I do agree with, but the articles provide plenty of food for thought.

Posted by bigblue on 29/01/2006 at 11:13 PM
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Monday, 16 January 2006
Gangers Hill

Gangers Hill

One week into the New Year we had some snow, and I went out and took some photographs.

This is on Gangers Hill on the North Downs Way.  Someone told me that in the olden days a gang of travellers lived in this wood. They gathered and sold firewood. They also kept pigs and bred fish (in some man-made ponds in the wood) in order to survive through winter.

According to the Ramblers’ Association (link above):

For much of its length the Way parallels the old route known as the Pilgrim’s Way between Winchester and Canterbury. Much of the traditional route of the Pilgrim’s Way is now part of the modern road network and walkers wishing to follow it are advised to use the North Downs Way as an alternative.

The National Trail site has a brief history of the Pilgrims’ Way.

Posted by bigblue on 16/01/2006 at 08:32 PM
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Thursday, 12 January 2006
Funniest Blonde Joke Ever

This is supposed to be the funniest blonde joke ever. Maltesers may also get some enjoyment from it.

Posted by bigblue on 12/01/2006 at 10:19 PM
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Tuesday, 10 January 2006
Coram Boy

Coram Boy set

This is the set for the play Coram Boy currently playing at the National Theatre in London. I snapped it with my mobile phone before the start of the first half. (Scarlett complained when I referred to half time, apparently it is known as interval in theatrical circles).

It is based on the book Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin, and Scarlett took Pinkie and me to see the play on Saturday night as a Christmas present.  I thoroughly enjoyed the play. I read the book some years ago, but Pinkie gave us a refresher synopsis on Thursday in preparation.  Scarlett has mentioned the play in her blog here.

I haven’t posted much since returning from my holiday last week, but I have been busying myself as mum, dad, cleaner, cook, taxi driver and general dogsbody. On top of this, Scarlett was bitten (several times) by some insect on an internal South African flight during our holiday and I was bitten once on our flight from Cape Town to Frankfurt (thanks SAA).  The culprit is probably something like this Wolf spider.

Normally blogging service should now be resumed.

Posted by bigblue on 10/01/2006 at 12:00 AM
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Wednesday, 21 December 2005
Off again

Smisby sunset

These rain clouds represent some kind of delight to the shepherds of Smisby (rather than a warning).

I am off again, on a short holiday to a warmer climate with les filles, until the New Year. I may be posting intermittently until then.

Yesterday evening was pretty exciting as an elderly couple kept phoning me. They were dialing the correct number for their daughter but some lines in the village seem crossed so they got through to my number. They confessed afterwards to having suspected me of being a kidnapper, and of having been concerned about the safety of their daughter.  At the time of the (repeated) calls I assumed that they were simply a bit dim, but it seems they may have been hard of hearing too (in addition to being panicky that is, not dim).  Eventually I dialed my mobile phone from the landline and noticed from caller ID that my landline was now linked to a strange number.  When I dialled the landline number from my mobile, the phone in the apartment didn’t ring although I got a ringing tone. Shortly afterwards the daughter of the elderly couple phoned her own number, got through to me, and we agreed to report the fault.

This would explain the young lady who left a strange message on my answering machine earlier in the day.  And the fact that my broadband is not working, so I am forced to connect to the Internet via GSM.

Posted by bigblue on 21/12/2005 at 08:40 AM
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