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Archive for May, 2006

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Worldnomads: credit where it’s due

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I’ve just received a letter from the Internal Dispute Resolution Committee at Mondial/WN informing me that they have overturned the initial decision to deny my claim.

It means that I can replace the camera in time for my trip to Prague. But I may never travel with a backpack again.


This is what I acquired when the ship docked at Maumere (Flores) and I found a cheap guesthouse directly opposite a second hand clothes market (the only one I’ve seen in Indonesia–providence or what??):

1 Microsoft Software Developer’s Conference shoulder bag anno 1999 (It wasn’t the most practical, but I couldn’t resist it for my hubby),

1 long dress,

1 pair light cotton trousers,

1 pair swimming shorts,

2 T-shirts,

1 towel,

1 each: toothbrush, toothpaste, nailclipper, razor, soap

…and that’s it. I still had my jeans, long-sleeved shirt and wind jacket but everything fitted comfortably into the shoulderbag and weighed in at under 5kg. It was enough. So, henceforth I may just travel with hand luggage (although I also carry a Swiss army knife, so I’ll still have to check it in).

And the sting in the tale? — My reply email to Worldnomads just bounced!

Citizenship pipedreams

Friday, May 26th, 2006

By autum of next year, I will have lived in Great Britain for twenty years and been married for nineteen of them.

Every now and then, my thoughts turn to adopting British citizenship—particularly with view of any future possible medical emergencies abroad when I’d rather have the British embassy contacted and my husband informed as soon as possible.

Two hurdles have stood in the way for me adopting British citizenship. The first (swearing allegiance to the queen) has recently been softened to the extent that it is acceptable to my political beliefs. The second (reform of the unbelievably finicky German citizenship laws) looked to happen back in the year 2000. Unfortunately, the process stalled. It is still not possible for someone like myself to retain German citizenship. I’m not the only one to be frustrated by this.

Ironically, this is because I cannot prove any remaining strong connections to the country of my birth. I don’t have any property, and I no longer talk to my remaining relatives there.

This means that I can keep my German passport by right of birth but will have to surrender it should I decide to become British. And as I still have an accent thick enough for people to think I’m here on holiday (thanks, German English teachers!), I simply can’t do that. It feels fake.

I’m both—British and Geman. But the German government with their DEUTSCHLAND ÜBER ALLES attitude makes a rational approach to dual citizenship impossible.

It doesn’t bother me most of the time. But I don’t want to get into another situation like the one in Bangkok. Hopefully, increased globalisation will make the traveller’s live easier in the future. After all, my insurers were Australian. But I’m not going there right now.

PS If there’s any more comment spam, I’ll have to close this entry for comments, no offense. (It’s open for now.)

English Summer (2)

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

When I peeled myself out of bed this morning and staggered to the shop across the road to buy some milk, it was sunny. So I bought some olives and tuna as well and put on eggs and beans to make a Salade Niçoise with our last left-over Jersey Royals.

By the time the water came to the boil, the sun had disappeared again.

This is our great English Summer. There hasn’t been a sunny day now since May 11th when I posted to the BNA ‘Food and Travel’ forum to ask for BBQ tips after more than two sunny days in a row.

There is a distinct sense of déja vu about this situation.

This should be enough incentive to get my lazy arse into gear and book a flight to Prague in two weeks time when John is off to another management course. We’ll see.

Re. Big Brother…

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

…So much for first impressions.

From this year’s selection it is apparent that the producers thought it hilarious to put mentally ill people on the show. I, for one, ain’t laughing.

Big Brother, we’re watching you.

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Yes, I think I can’t resist, as every summer—for the seventh time—the Big Brother circus rolls into town.

Resistance is futile. Almost everyone I know finds themselves gradually dragged in by the series, so I decided to give in and watch it from the very beginning.

The housemates are the usual bunch of freaks. Or, in the words of 35-year-old Barbie doll Lea: “I don’t consider myself a freak. I just consider myself—you know—something abnormal.” Lea is an ex-23-stone-turned-model and ‘Body Artist’ whose best ever purchase were her boobs. She doesn’t eat cheese. Davina’s words as she entered the house “It’s only Panto.”

This we can be assured of. Among the more memorable characters are a rock singer with Tourette’s syndrome (who may or may not be acting, but we should run a petition to get the guy some Valium in any case), a sociopath, the inevitable ‘sex-terrorist’ (near enough a clone of an earlier housemate who was bi-, but this one’s gay), two toffs and several self-confessed models (but then all of them suffer from narcissistic personality disorder).

Sadly, we seem to be missing the geek factor this time; while two of the female entrants between them manage to lower the average IQ of the 14 housemates by at least ten points. At first I had some hope for Mikey, software developper and model, but he turns out to be just a bigmouth who’s trying too hard to piss people off.

I started jotting down quotes half-way through the opening show.

Shebaz, most certainly not said sex-terrorist: “I think the British public should know that there are gay Muslims out there who are not all terrorists”. He’s 37 and unemployed (“His intelligence is unemployable”), but actually has potential. Of all the guys, he may be the smartest and he can turn on the charm the best, so naturally he’s gay.

Dawn, beautiful and enigmatic, doesn’t like people: “Show me a nice person. Yes, perhaps Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Bob Geldof. Those are nice people. All the others are bastards.” Davina, commentating as she entered the house: “She likes to be reincarnated as either Jesus—or Hitler.” I like Dawn the most. Perhaps fellow sociopaths attract each other.

Glyn, 19 years old, pale and scrawny in his swimming trunks: “I’m a lifeguard. I’ve been voted the most sexiest lifeguard in North Wales.” (!) “I feel I can express myself back there, when I’ve got no clothes on.” Davina: “It’s not quite Baywatch, is it?”

Bubbly Lisa, the unlikely upholsterer. Davina told us that: “The coolest thing she’s ever done is superglue somebody’s toast together—which is quite cool, actually.”

Sezar, the young tycoon: “At 18, I was the youngest guy on the stock exchange floor, at 19, I was the most qualified guy in my company, at 20, I owned the company.” Take note, Sir Alan Sugar!

Yes, I’ll be watching.

The Draught

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

If you think that England is a country in North Africa, you would be fogiven.

Yesterday, the first Draught orders since 1977 went out to a region just east from Tadley.

We haven’t seen the sun in two days. It is true that England is a lot drier than Scotland, but the lawn is lush and green and I haven’t even had to water our potted herbs yet. If I had to, there wouldn’t be a problem, because our rainwater barrel is brimming.

Back in 1991, I studied for an MSc in Aquatic Resource Management at King’s College London and I learned that the limestone aquifers in the South on England are overmined. Texans will be familiar with the concept. It takes so long for water to percolate back into the aquifers that—to all intents and purposes—mined ground water should be considered a finite resource. Something like 70% of people in the south of England depend on it for their water supplies.

Why is the situation so dire? Because when it privatised the water companies (why, oh why?) the government handed them a license to print money. While the directors and shareholders are lining their pockets, at least a quarter of the water is pissing out of broken pipes. Our lecturer was almost sympathetic—awfully hard to fix the leaks if they can’t be detected.

Meanwhile the little guys can’t use their hosepipes to water their gardens. Cricket grounds and golf courses will henceforth also be unwatered, but that doesn’t bother me a lot. What bothers me was archive footage of feeble grannies with big buckets queuing up at stand-pipes. Yep, stand-pipes may make a come-back.

A bit of investment in R&D has never done any harm. If you can’t invest in the solution, invest in solving the problem. If this was Japan, semi-autonomous robots(modelled on bathtub-toys) would already patrol the pipes and report back on any pressure changes. We had the technology back in the early nineties. Hell, we probably had it back in the Victorian age.

Meanwhile, people living in Israel can still take the odd shower.

Eton Mess

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

The blog has been offline for a while because the Booties have upgraded some hardware. All BNA blogs seem to be back in service now. Good work, lads & lasses 😉

Also, because this is Tadley, I can only go online on alternate Wednesdays, so blogging is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.

Finally, if you look at the photos for this entry, you will appreciate just how much I miss my old camera. These were taken with a gimmick digital ‘spy camera’ with about 1/10 of the picture quality you get from your average mobile phone.

I bought my mobile phone in 2001, and it doesn’t take pictures— it’s a phone! 😉

At long last, today the sun is back! It’s irritating that this is such an occasion —I’m actually working on something right now and don’t feel like dropping everything to go for a walk in the woods. Why can’t this be the norm here?

In the last three days we only had about 20 minutes of sunshine, but those 20 minutes fell on Sunday afternoon: during the window between the first, slight drizzle of rain and the late afternoon wash-out when we had a BBQ.
It was the second BBQ within one month, and more will follow. Finally we are managing to get past the once-a-year rule!

The reason, on both occasions, was the visit of John’s former students, who are Morrocan and who took care of the meat, transforming several kilos of Halal chicken, lamb and mince into fragrantly marinated skewers and patties—enough to feed us for two days afterwards.
skewers.jpg skewers2.jpg
I was left with the veg and salad and, on the last occasion, dessert.

The strawberries, although not yet locally grown, are looking better and I made the most of a special offer, ending up with about half a bowl of reasonably ripe fruit (slightly more than half of what I bought). This wasn’t enough to feed five people, so I decided on a variation of strawberries with cream: Eton Mess, named after the famous boarding school where strawberries with cream and crushed meringue present a favourite seasonal treat.
Eton Mess.jpg
To be honest, I only considered making meringue after being left with an egg white from making Aïoli. The aïoli was crap, but dessert was a success.
[read on]

Sunny Days are here again

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Girls in string tops and children in splash pools would dominate the headlines today, if it wasn’t for a major government reshuffle. Yet, I’m surprised that the weather wasn’t a main item on the news last night:

“– band of rain drifting in from the continent by Saturday,” the weatherman beamed: “Bad news if you’re planning a BBQ , but at least it will bring welcome relief from the oppressive heat.”

Oppressive heat?

This afternoon—for the first time since returning from SE Asia—I ventured outside without a coat. There is still a chill in the air and I felt oddly naked in my dress; my flip-flops dangled strangely from between my toes, as if I had not worn them continuously for twelve weeks during that trip. It was almost like learning to walk again.

Current State of Affairs

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

It’s gone quiet on this blog, I know. I simply don’t feel like writing up my Indonesia experiences at the moment.

There have been some developments on the insurance claim. At long last, the Internal Dispute Resolution Committee is looking at it. Coincidentally, at about the same time, the managing director of WN began posting on the Bootsnall thread. Thankfully, someone replied before I saw the message. There is no need to engage in a flame war, certainly not on the BNA members’ forum. Instead I’m slugging it out with the guy by email. And he doesn’t let go.

I’m not so much annoyed by this as (I’ve found to my considerable annoyance)…anxious. My heart starts beating wildly every time a new message from the guy pops up in my inbox. I hate palpitations, but apparently Insurance claims are another addition to my list of triggers. Unsurprisingly perhaps, seeing that the event has started off my current bout of panic disorder (the first attack happened right in that police station in Makassar, and it wasn’t pretty).

It’s time for another tobacco run. John will be away for a week from May 14th and I don’t think I should stay at home. I’m not getting any sort of writing done anyway. John says I can go where I want (within reason—not back to Thailand), even whalewatching in the Bay of Biscay if I wanted. But I don’t feel like going on my own on a ship, or spend my evenings in the company of drunken scousers. Besides, it is still a little early in the year. So thought about Prague. Not only is the beautiful city in the heart of Bohemia one of the coolest places on the planet, with some great hostels, but May is the perfect time to visit. Only problem: I can’t (yet) take the EU allowance of tobacco out of Czecheslovakia, just the duty free. That won’t pay for the flight. And do I really want to hang out in a foreign town on my own? It sounds like Xanax time again.

So for now, no new travel plans aside from a possible visit to Morocco for Eid which falls on New Year’s Eve. That would be cool! In the meantime, I’m trying to get John to renew his passport because, Brits take note, from October onwards first-time passport applicants will be interviewed for inclusion in the ID database and passport renewals will follow very soon after. Renewing your passport ASAP buys ten years of relative freedom.