Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit...

Not the result I'd hoped for and I guess it's bye bye Union now as Scotland will now leave the UK.

Brexit is the final result of Britain’s inability to develop a national identity post-Empire that is both convincing or inclusive.

It's fine. I mean, history is full of examples where rampant nationalism and economic hardship produce some of humanity's shining moments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Club Membership...

Three people at work today have asked for my opinion on the EU Referendum. They were all undecided and wanted advice on which way to vote. Why they thought my half-baked views were worthy of note I don't know!

Anyway, I said the same thing to all three of them.

"In my experience it is better to a member of a club that not a member of a club.

OK, you may not relish paying the club's membership fees, you may not like some of the club's petty rules and you may not agree with some of the other member’s opinions all the time. But generally speaking being in a club is good for everyone, it stops fights breaking out, the bullies next door leave you alone, you get a good deal when you buy stuff off other members and you are free to go to each other's houses to help out.

And all you really have put up with is the club's annual sing-song contest where you’ll probably come last – again."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Back to Work...

It's been a fun three weeks off on my hols but I'm now back in the saddle. Did I say saddle? I meant harness.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Holiday in Cambodia...

So we are finally on our way home. Back in 1980 I'd pogo around to this little ditty in various college discos and at The Bell in Kings Cross not really realising what is was The Dead Kennedys were singing about. Back then I couldn't have imagined that 36 years later I'd have the truth shown to me first hand by many people who lost close family members to Pol Pot's awful Khmer Rouge genocidal blood bath. Forgiveness is in abundance here but they will never forget. Holiday in Cambodia...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cambodia: Preah Ko and Bakong Temples...

Today Stuart and I cycled about 15km out of Siem Reap into the countryside to meet some of the locals and visit two more temples - Bakong and Preah Ko.

The Cambodian countryside was as rich and lush as the locals were poor. Most familes are farmers with no electricity and a shared water well. Those that have managed to send their kids to school are allowed to borrow money from the bank to build brick houses. Some of these are fairly gaudy to be frank but serve their purpose well. All the kids smiled and waved and said "Hello mister". 

Past the villages we came upon Bakong temple - it is the first temple mountain of sandstone constructed by the rulers of the Khmer empire at Angkor. It's in pretty good nick too. Naturally we had to climb up to the top.

Then we cycled on to Preah Ko temple which is fab. It is probably our favorite temple of our trip. Consisting of six brick towers in two rows perched on a sandstone platform it is dedicated to Jayavarman II (founder of the Khmer empire), his father, his grandfather and their three wives. The six towers all bear images of the Hindu god Shiva. It's in such good nick the temple looks like it was built 120 years ago not 1200 years ago. Loved it. 














Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cambodia: Ta Prohm (and other amazing temples)...

Up early we visited the Angkor Thom area in the early morning sunlight. Ta Prohm (and some of the other temples) are in many respects more amazing than Angkor Wat itself.  Ta Prohm is a jungle over-grown temple (most famously used in the Lara Croft film). From there we moved on to Bayon Temple with its many faces of Buddha,  climbed pyramid-like Phimeanakas, and finally walked along the Elephant and Leper King terraces. What a day!








Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cambodia: Angkor Wat...

Having finally arrived in Seim Reap we checked in to our (rather swanky) hotel, checked out the pool and then headed out for the real reason we were here - to see the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. 

Wow! Just wow! We're were blown away. Majestic, a bit weather-worn, and way bigger than we thought it would be the place is simply breathtaking. 








Friday, June 10, 2016

Cambodia: Phnom Penh...

Stuart and I flew into Cambodia yesterday and its been fab so far. Our guide in Phnom Penh is a weirdly wonderful woman called Narra who has had us laughing from the moment we meet her. She is full of gossip and facts about her beloved city. We love her.

We checked into the Raffles Hotel and Stuart is in his element: we have a butler! He is on call, will unpack our things and run us a bath if we want! 

Today we had a city tour to the royal palace (great fun) and the national museum (meh). Narra thinks the current Cambodian king might be gay ("never married", "ballet teacher") but would love him to marry another man and they rule together! As I said - we love Narra!

After lunch we made a very sobering trip to the S21 prison where so many Cambodians were tortured by Pol Pot's Khymer Rouge in the 1970s and then on to one of the Killing Fields where so many were murdered. I'll write something about this another time but suffice to say it makes you very angry and has echoes of the horrors of Auschwitz.






Vietnam: Siagon City Tour...

Siagon is a crazy, busy, chaotic, lovely city. Full of local charm and oddities from years of colonial rule. On our last day we scored around seeing the sights but had not enough time to see it all.

(One thing we did see was the War Museum. It was so upsetting and I had to take a break at one point. Our guide said Americans don't come here and if they do their rarely last more that 15 minutes. I might write about it at a later date if I have the stomach for it.)




Thursday, June 09, 2016

Vietnam: Saigon Vespa Street Food Tour...

Last night Stuart and I climbed on the back of a couple of Vespas for a white knuckle ride round Saigon on a street food tour. Weird food, lots of booze, some amazing views and probably the most fun I've ever had on two wheels. If you come here you must do this!




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Vietnam: Saigon (well, that's what the locals call it!)...

Are you two married?
No.
Girlfriends?
No.
Would you like to eat some dog?
No.
Fire some American rifles? We have AK47s?
No.
Would you like to go to the tunnels where the Viet Cong hid from the Americans during the American War?
Sure.

The Cu Chi tunnels are deep underground structures down to three levels totalling 250km. They were used for meeting, dining, living and fighting by the Viet Cong. At anyone time 1000 people lived underground and the tunnels contained numerous gruesome booby traps to stop American soldiers gaining access to them. Women and children lived down there to as well as the fighters. They are now held as great examples of Vietnamese resistance and ingenuity. We found them to be fascinating but rather sad. 3,000 Vietnamese people died in those tunnels. And they were used to kill many US soldiers too.