Sunday, 30 November 2008

St Andrew's Day

Wishing my many friends either living in, or originating in, Scotland a happy St Andrew's Day.

Four fascinating flag facts.
  1. The Flag of Scotland, also known as the Saltire or Cross of St Andrew is one of the three constituent crosses of the Union Flag of the United Kingdom.
  2. The Flag of Tenerife is also a white saltire on a blue ground but the blue is darker.
  3. The reverse, a blue saltire on a white background, is used as the ensign for the Russian navy.
  4. The Battle Flag of the Confederacy features a darker blue saltire.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

PhotoHunt: metal


A maritime theme for metal this week.

When I went to explore Portsmouth recently, on an unfortunately dull day, I was taken with the shapes of these metal lamp posts along the Saluting Platform, the area where people gathered, and still do, to welcome ships home.



Just below that, on Grand Parade, is this sculpture called The Bonds of Friendship, commemorating the sailing of settlers to Australia.  There is an identical memorial in Sydney, Australia.  The plaque reads:

This Monument Commemorates the Sailing
from Spithead on 13 May 1787
of the First Fleet Conveying Settlers to Australia
A Great Nation was Born.
Then on to The Historic Dockyard where you can find metal objects at every corner.
Among them was this enormous rusting anchor.  And in the background you can see...
....HMS Warrior, the first iron-hulled, armour-plated warship built for the Royal Navy in 1860.

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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Blood

Photo from Flickr/bartmaguire. Creative Commons Licence.

I've been a blood donor off and on for years. I first started because of a colleague who had a rare blood type. Every so often, remarkably frequently in fact, the local hospital would send a car for him if they wanted him to give some blood, either routinely or for a specific case. The people who needed his blood were fortunate he was willing and able to give, and that the facilities were all in place. My own blood type turns out to be very ordinary, but nevertheless useful if you happen to need it.

We, in the developed world, accept, expect, that if we need one, we can have a blood transfusion, that blood is there for the asking. But things are not the same in developing countries, not by a long way.

In Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, they are building a new blood bank. Until it is finished the Bwaila maternity hospital has to rely on blood from Blantyre, three hours away. It arrives every day but there is never enough. Most of the donors are students and when the students are on holiday the shortage is even greater.

In emergencies a decision has to be made whether or not to operate on a patient. So many of the mothers coming to Bwaila have an extremely poor diet which often causes severe anaemia, bringing with it an overload on the heart and an inability to cope with extreme effort such as pushing out a baby. But should an operation be done when no blood is available? If a mother is already losing blood the treatment is normally an emergency caesarian section. Should they go ahead and operate if no blood is available? Who would want to be faced with these decisions? The women in Malawi are dying because there is no blood.

But there is better news. Apart from the new blood bank, a new hospital is being built at Bwaila. The Rose Project in Ireland is providing the funding which will ultimately give hope to many women and their babies.

Story from Birthing a Dream.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Monday, 24 November 2008

Keywords and search engines

A certain section of the blogging community seems obsessed with the number of keywords they can fit into a sentence.  Sometimes there are more keywords than ordinary words until it's almost impossible to find a sentence structure.  They blast you with them, just in case you or the search engines miss the point.

You might think this is a relatively new phenomenon, one that has come about as the result of blogs and websites vying with each other, not saying but shouting, "ME! ME! ME!" to the search engines.  But I can assure you it isn't anything new.  The technique was invented and refined by my nine year old son, roughly 20 years ago at school.

I found one of his trial runs in an old exercise book: an essay entitled, My Wish.

My wish is that I would be in the school A team in football. I would wish that because I am quite a good footballer and I would really like to be in the school football team.  Another reason that I would like to is that most of my friends are in the school football team and that I would get some training done because the school football team gets all the training.  In the summer they are allowed to go on the feild field and play football with the others.  I like playing football and my brother was in the school football team as well.

From the teacher: I'm sure you will be in the team next year.

So you see, he succeeded in his mission.

Photo from Flickr/bowbrick.  Creative Commons licence.

All anyone needs to do now, is substitute Zenni optical glasses everywhere he mentions football team, and your success is as inevitable as his.  I'm confidently expecting 1,000 hits a day now, from people looking for football teams.

Friday, 21 November 2008

PhotoHunt: reflection

Once again I'm afraid I find myself away for the weekend, so I'm uploading this in advance.

Reflections, all found on the same river about four weeks ago.






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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Waste, waste, waste.


Every day we get junk mail.  Every single day, the junk mail out numbers the useful mail by a long way.  When we are away for an extended period we have someone who comes in to make sure things are all right.  The post is put to one side and kept for us to sort on our return.  This time the pile was 50 cm, 20 inches, high.  The useful part was barely a handful.

It is quite unbelievable how much is being thrown away.  And it's not as though we haven't tried to stop it.  We have catalogues addressed to us, though there's no knowing how they got our address, catalogues addressed to the previous owners, and to the owners before them!  People who have been dead for decades!  Nothing seems to stop the flow.

But it's worse.  Have a look at the picture of today's haul.  There are two of the roughly six reminders to renew a National Geographic subscription even though I've said I don't want it.  Inside each are 4 pieces of paper plus a return envelope.  One piece of paper says, "While all fees support the Society's mission of expanding geographic knowledge, 90% is designated for the magazine subscription".  And how much for waste paper?

Underneath you can see envelopes from two different charities.  At this time of year there is a deluge from charities, who send cards, pens, coins, every sort of gimmick under the sun.  Some of these things are wrapped in plastic. How much does all this cost?   It's not only the cost to the charity, but also the cost to the planet. 

How do I stop the flood of paper?  I've tried "Return to sender", "Gone away", Deceased".  None of it works.  I'm calling in desperation here before I sink!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Full moon

Taken a few days ago.  I haven't seen it since....

Monday, 17 November 2008

Should we donate?

What is it with famous (and wealthy) people who set up a charity and then ask us, their adoring public, to pay into it?

Earlier this year it was Prince Harry and his Sentebale charity, now Madonna, reportedly one of the world's richest women, has asked her fans to give generously to her cause, building a girls' school in Malawi.

Why set up a new charity, when so many are already up and running? It must be far more efficient to donate money to an existing organisation, rather than setting up a whole new infrastructure. Could it possibly be another way of attracting good publicity? Why do such wealthy people ask the general public to donate to their own pet charity?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Figureheads

  1. A person with an important title but no real authority.
  2. A carved figure on the prow of a ship.
The carved figure on a ship looks important but has no real power either. They were often used to indicate the name of the ship, and the power and wealth of the owner. Contrary to some popular belief, they aren't always naked women.

The following can be found at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.



This is from HMS Trafalgar, a 120 gun first rate ship of the line, built at Woolwich in 1841 and named after Nelson's famous victory.


The figurehead from HMS Benbow, a 72 gun third rate ship of the line, launched at Rotherhithe in 1813.



The bow of HMS Victory with its figurehead which consists of two cupids supporting the royal coat of arms surmounted with the royal crown. The arms bear the Norman French inscription of the Order of the Garter: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Translated this means: Shame to him who evil thinks.


A female figurehead with a rather loose dress.



Another female whose dress seems to be largely missing. She's missing an arm too.

Once long ago I sailed the sea
At the prow of a sailing ship was I,
Bearing the brunt of crested wave,
Fighting the seas when winds were high.



This chap can't be a figurehead I'm sure, but he looks much more fun than the others - not too worried about rules. I don't think he can be British, insufficient reserve. :)

All you could possibly want to know about figureheads can be found at The Figurehead Archives.
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Saturday, 15 November 2008

PhotoHunt: ruin

I had intended to show more of Oradour, the place in France left in ruins after Nazi reprisals, but I've left my photos in France, so if you are interested I'm afraid you will have to refer to my earlier post.

Instead I will go further back in time and show you another place in France, this one left to become a ruin with time. It is the Oppidum d'Ensérune, an ancient hill town in the south of France dating from pre-Roman times. From archaeological records, settlement there seems to have started in the 6th century BC, and disappeared some time during the first centruy AD.

Extensive excavation has been carried out throughout the site which is on top of a hill. The first ruins I saw were of individual buildings, here and there.


But then moving on into the main area, I realised that the town must have been quite extensive at one time.


It was clear from the view that the inhabitants must have been able to see enemies approaching for many miles, this obviously the reason for its position.


This view over the Etang de Montardy would have looked completely different, when a lake filled the area. It wasn't drained until the 13th century.


From my point of view, although the ruins were interesting, the views are what I remember best - combined with the chill wind blowing that day, they were breathtaking!

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A parent's ambition?


A 16 year old boy is setting off from Portsmouth today in an attempt to be the youngest person to sail alone around the world.  Almost two years ago he was the youngest to cross the Atlantic alone, taking six weeks to complete the crossing.  This time they expect the trip to take four and a half months.

From the BBC news:
Family spokesperson Kizzi Nkwocha said:
"Michael will become the most famous schoolboy in the world when he completes his journey.  However, the incredibly high cost of satellite calls means that he won't be able to talk to people in the UK as much as he may wish to.  It will be quite a lonely four-and-a-half months for a teenager, especially as he will be away for Christmas.  But Michael will have his college course work to keep him company."
 I can't help but wonder why.  Nothing on this earth would persuade me that a sixteen year old should undertake an expedition such as this.  I don't believe at that age they have either the mental or physical maturity to cope with the extreme conditions that might arise, let alone any emergency that could occur.  How many people would be happy to see their child risking his life for what seems at best like a frivolous reason? 

And as for doing college work in his spare time - he must be quite exceptional!

The name of his yacht is totallymoney.com.
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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Colours

There are still so many colours around and it's nearly mid-November.

red leaves


yellow leaves


copper leaves

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice Day

poppy banner
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Armistice. This date marks the cease fire on the Western Front of World War I, 90 years ago.

Called Armistice Day in many countries, after World War II the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day in the United States and to Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth. Armistice Day remains an official holiday in France and Belgium.

Remembrance Day in the UK is held on the nearest Sunday and generally known as Remembrance Sunday. A two-minute silence is observed at 11:00 am, but increasingly the two minute silence is also observed on 11 November.

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

~A E Housman



war graves
Photo from Flickr/Redvers.

5,923 graves at Hooge, of which the majority, 3,579, are of unidentified soldiers.
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Reasons to be grateful (Isle of Wight edition)

With apologies for hijacking Solomon's grateful theme.


Picture from Flickr/terraprints. Creative commons licence.

Reasons to be grateful for the Isle of Wight:
  1. It shelters the sea in a way that give a whole blissful hour of relief from a very rough channel crossing.
There may be other reasons.

For anything else you could ever want to know about the Isle of Wight, and even more that you didn't want to know, feel free to visit Relax Max, but don't say I didn't warn you. If you happen to know what he's talking about, please come back and tell me.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Refugees


A French postcard dating from the First World War. I thought it was fitting to use it on this day, the day that Bloggers Unite for Refugees, as we approach the 90th anniversary of the end of that war. Ninety years. Different refugees, different causes, the same problems.

Refugees United provides refugees with an anonymous forum to reconnect with missing family.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Travelling

If I've timed it correctly, when you read this I'll be heading for .....


....and I sincerely hope I'll be aboard something a little more substantial than .....

Saturday, 8 November 2008

PhotoHunt: together

Once again, I'm on the move this weekend, so I'm posting early.

There are so many different ways to interpret together that I hardly knew where to start. In the end I decided on two but at the very last minute I was lucky enough to find a third. 


I love the look of the green ivy together with Virginia Creeper on a nearby building.


These ducklings were huddling together, about to be transported to a new home.


Finally, just before the sun set this evening I was lucky enough to notice the aeroplane near the moon.  Admittedly this is a very distant togetherness, but they are together in the same shot.

I hope I may have some time on Saturday to comment on visitors' blogs, but it may be Sunday or Monday before I manage to get around all.

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Friday, 7 November 2008

Survival - mother and child


Photo from Flickr/M R Hasan. Creative Commons Licence.

The population of the UK is approximately 60 million. Bangladesh, roughly the same area, has a population of 150 million. People struggle to share resources. Over 90% of births occur at home with a traditional birth attendant whose practices are unlikely to have changed from those of 100 years ago. Her only equipment is a razor blade and a length of string.

Marjana, expecting her second child, lives over two hours away from the nearest hospital. If there is an emergency there will be little that can be done. She is 50 times more likely to die than a woman giving birth in the west. Women are encouraged not to breast feed for the first few days. If there is no other milk available, the baby will in effect be starved.

Four million babies in Bangladesh die within a month of birth, two million within the first day.

But things are improving. While the Millenium Development Goals are off target, the number of deaths in children under five has fallen by 50% since 1990. Microcredit programmes and increased school attendance are empowering women across Bangladesh.

This BBC video (over 10 minutes) gives more encouraging news.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Dona nobis pacem 2008

How To Get Your Peace Globe


It is approaching 90 years since the Great War ended, the world's first "total war", a global war.  The casualties and loss of life were staggering.  For years after many thought it was the war to end all wars.

And then came World War II.

Across the world today, millions of people are still caught up in wars.  There are six conflicts currently causing more than 1000 deaths a year according to the UN classification.  There are many more smaller conflicts, see Bruno Picozzi's Pro-Peace Initiative.  The lesson has not yet been learnt.

Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.
     ~ Buddha

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Changeable

sky at dusk
A brief glimpse of blue sky before the sun set and before the next band of rain came over. Changeable weather, changeable times.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

And the news is.....

... I've lost my job.

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but it could have come at a better time, from the point of view of finding something else.  It was always a risk, I knew that when I started in January, but I had hoped it would last longer.


Ah well, onward and upward.....

Monday, 3 November 2008

Bridges between: Olargues


Olargues, a village in the Haut Languedoc, one included in "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France". The site of the village dates back to Roman times and is almost surrounded by the river Le Jaur which is crossed by the Devil's Bridge, le Pont du Diable, another of these bridges which are said to be the scene of transactions between the village and the devil.

The three arched bridge dates back to 1202. It would have been difficult and expensive to build but while Olargues was growing in importance, it allowed access to the Nîmes to Toulouse road on the other side of the valley.

For more on Bridges Between, visit RunE at Visual Norway.
Other participants here.
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