Friday, October 30, 2009

Still a lot to see

Below is a map of the world showing the countries that my partner Michael & I have visited.  9% of the total apparently, but still vast areas of the world still to explore.

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

Focussing in on Europe, which is where we've done most of our travelling, we are doing a little better having visited 40% of the states.

create your personalized map of europe
or check out our Barcelona travel guide

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt - Just an Old Fashioned Girl!

I was saddened to learn this morning of the death of Eartha Kitt at the age of 81 from colon cancer.

Eartha Kitt was a brilliant performer and I have always loved listening to CDs of her music.   I had always assumed that I had missed my chance to see her perform live, but just under 2 years ago, she did a couple of shows at the Shaw Theatre in London and my wonderful husband, Michael, bought me tickets as a valentine's day gift.

The show was brilliant and it was truely one of the highlights of my life to see her perform live.  After the show she came out to the foyer and sat and signed autographs for people.  

I'm sure that her music will continue to entertain people for many years to come, but the world is a slightly duller place this morning.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gay Holocaust Memorial - Berlin

A memorial to the gay victims of the Nazis has recently been dedicated in Berlin.  It is situated opposite the Jewish Holocaust memorial, set back slightly from the street at the edge of the Tiergarten.

The dedecation on the memorial in German and English is as follows:

In Nazi Germany, homosexuality was persecuted to a degree unprecenteded in history. In 1935, the National Socialists issued an order making all male homosexuality a crime; the provisions governing homosexual behaviour in Section 175 of the Criminal Code were significantly expanded and made stricter. A kiss was enough reason to prosecute. There were more than 50,000 convictions. Under Section 175, the punishment was imprisonment, in some cases, convicted offenders were castrated. Thousands of men were sent to concerntration camps for being gay; many of them died there. They died of hunger, disease and abuse or were the victims of targeted killings.

The National Socialists destroyed the communities of gay men and women. Female homosexuality was not prosecuted, except in annexed Austria; the National Socialists did not find it as threatening as male homosexuality. However, lesbians who came into conflict with the regime were also subject to repressive measures. Under the Nazi regime, gay men and women lived in fear and under constant pressure to hide their sexuality.

For many years, the homosexual victims of National Socialism were not included in public commemorations - neither in the Federal Republic of Germany nor in the German Democratic Republic. In both East and West Germany, homosexuality continued to be prosecuted for many years. In the Federal Republic, Section 175 remained in force without amendment until 1969.

Because of its history, Germany has a special responsibility to oppose the violation of gay men's and lesbians' human rights. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted for their sexulaity, homsexual love remains illegal and a kiss can be dangerous.

With this memorial, the Federal Republic of Germany intends to honour the victims of persecution and murder, to keep alive the memory of this injustice, and to create a lasting symbol of opposition to enmity, intolerance and the exclusion of gay men and lesbians.

When you look through the window in the memorial you can see a black and white film of two young men kissing.

This is an important memorial, both to remind us of past oppression of gay men and lesbians but also as a warning to us all not to become complacent.  In might seem that the battle for lesbian and gay equality has been largely won but we must remain constantly on our guard as without a doubt there are religious fundamentalists both Christian and Muslim who will continue to campaign against us and who will not hesitate to reverse our hard won freedoms should they ever gain more power and influence.

Monday, June 16, 2008

London 2012 - site update (2)

This pair of pictures is taken from the Greenway bridge across Marshgate Lanebut looking in a more northerly direction along the line of the old Marshgate Lane. The first picture was taken in November 2007, when quite a few of the buildings remained as did the old street lights.

Now, in June 2008, the old structures have been completely demolished. You can see that where Marshgate lane goes under the Greenway what can only be described as a "hardcore" height restriction warning has been erected.  A heavy pipe painted black and yellow has been put in place presumably to avoid any possibility of any over-height site vehicles attempting to go under the bridge.  In the top right of the picture you can see the cranes and a pile driver related to the Olympic stadium site and the associated site offices are centre left.  A new pedestrian access for site workers has been contstructed from the Greenway down onto the site.

Finally, this picture shows the stadium construction site itself.

London 2012 - Olympic site update

The picture below was taken from the Greenaway where it crosses what was Marshgate Lane.  It was taken in November 2007 and is looking eastwards towards the site of the future olympic village.

Below is the same view, picture taken yesterday (15 June 2008). The remaining structures have all been demolished and a more permanent site access road has been constructed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eurovision Song Contest 2008 - Semi Final 1

Well six of the ten songs that I picked for the final from the first semi final made it through to the final - Greece, Romania, Russia, Armenia, Poland & Norway who are joined by Bosnia, Finland, Israel & Azerbaijan.

Actually, most of the songs in semi final grew on me and the performances on the night all seemed to go well.   I still loathe the Irish entry and am extremely pleased it didn't qualify.

So Thursday night sees the second semi final and what is still the stronger line up - in my opinion.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Eurovision Song Contest 2008

Well, it's that time of year again. The album of this year's entries was released on Monday and I've listened through twice.

The contest changes this year, with only 5 songs pre-qualified for the final instead of 14.  The five finalists are Serbia (as the hosts) and the big four EBU funders - France, UK, Germany & Spain.  All of the remaining acts have to take part in one of two semi finals each with 19 songs.  Voting in each semi-final will be mainly restricted to viewers in the countries participating in the sem-final - although viewers from France, UK, Germany, Spain & Serbia will be allocated to vote in one of the semi-finals.  The top nine countries from tele-voting will qualify for the final from each semi-final. The 10th country to qualify from each semi-final will be the country that scored the highest marks from the jury voting that has not already qualified.

Quite how this will help counter all the criticism that is generated each year - usually by people trying to blame anything and everything for their favourite song not winning - other than that it wasn't good enough to win.

There is one advantage to this new system.  It has been clear in the past few years that pre-qualifying for the final is a definate disadvantage. With fewer pre-qualifiers this effect should be reduced - although it obviously does nothing to help the UK's chances.

So my choices for the qualifying songs from each semi-final are:

From Semi Final 1:
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Greece
  • Andorra
  • Montenegro
  • Slovenia
  • Poland
  • Armenia
  • Netherlands
  • Romania
From Semi Final 2:
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • Belarus
  • Iceland
  • Turkey
  • Albania
  • Czech Republic
  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • Malta
These songs are not listed in any particular order of preference.  Overall, the songs in semi-final 2 are much better than the songs from semi-final 1.   Semi-final 1 has five absolutely dire songs - from Ireland, Estonia, Finland, San Marino & Azerbaijan.

These are my 10 favourites from each semi-final and they are not necessarily the songs that I think will qualify for the final.  It is also an assessment based only on hearing the songs. I haven't seen any of these acts perform so I have not been affected by costume, performance or how much I fancy the male lead singer - although it has to be said this might have had some influence on the fact that the Russian entry is currently my favourite as Dima Bilan has performed before and I know what he looks like.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Major Fire on the Olympic Site

There was a major fire today in one of the emtpy warehouses on the Olympic site that they haven't got around to demolishing yet. The building probably hasn't been demolished as it is right behind a bus depot that is still in use. There are two London bus garages on Waterden Road, which are inside the Olympic site but they have been given extra time to move out of the site. The bus garage next to the fire had to be completely evacuated whilst the blaze was being tackled, causing severe disruption to some bus routes.

The North London line which also runs close by also had services suspended - on its first day as a line on "London Overground" which is the marketing name for the lines that have been handed over to Transport for London to control.

This photo on the left was taken in Wick Lane and it shows the smoke plume rising behind the recent residential development at 417 Wick Lane.

This shot was taken from the footbridge across the Hertford Union canal from Roach Road on Fish Island to the tow path leading to White Post Lane in Hackney Wick.

This shot was taken from White Post Lane through an open gate at the very edge of the Olympic site.

This final shot is taken from the Greenway at the point where is crosses Marshgate Lane right in the middle of the site.