Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15
Everyone has the right to a nationality.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27
Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29
Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sofia asleep holding a ribbon

Sofia asleep holding a ribbon
Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
Christopher and Terhi had a christening today. The baby was given the name Sofia Edith Helena.

In Finland the names of the babies are kept secret until the actual ceremony. This saves the grandparents wondering if any of their names will be used.

So I asked Terhi what did you call her from the birth until the christening. In public she said "vauva" but in private she whispered Sofia.

Christopher was asked by friends from the UK what the babies name was and all he could say was that it is a secret, and he could not tell anyone. This is unheard of in the UK because as soon as the baby is born it has to be given a name for the birth certificate.

The dress she is wearing was knitted 27 years ago by Maija for our daughter Riina. Indeed it has been used for quite a few christenings. The pink ribbon is exchanged for a blue one when a boy turns up. The silk rose was a touch added by the other grandmother Riita.

So when I got home I decided to open one of my christmas presents to celebrate and it turned out to be Reese's Nutragenous. That warmed my heart. It is good when your own children remember what you like, and then go to the effort of getting it for you.

Joy to the World

Christmas is a time of joy and laughter. A time to sing songs together. You know it is good when you loose control laughing. When you forget that your front teeth are missing, and your mother is taking a photo of a toothless grin that you will hate in years to come. You are oblivious to the camera, and someone could push a plug, into your face, using your nose as a socket, and the energy coming off you would light up a christmas tree.

The kids wait for their presents, and if it happens that the first present out of the wrapper is a spiderman suit, a red and blue lycra concoction, that they have dreamed about, as they practised the hand movements, to shoot imaginary spider webs to swing on, then the evening is over and done with as far as all other presents are concerned.

It is just a pity that you do not become a super-hero by doning a tight blue and red suit, and no matter how hard you throw yourself at the wall, the suit does not have the power to make you defy gravity. You have to be satisfied by looking damn cool, as you strike a classic spiderman pose. It is unfortunate that the illusion of being a super-hero these days is all down to posing. The power is missing.

The excellence of a gift is in its appropriateness and not in its value

I decided to get radical with my own presents and not to open any of them. It is not being disrespectful to the people who gave me presents, it is just that I want to wait for special occasions to celebrate. Or rather many special occasions.

I believe I will celebrate by opening a present tomorrow at the christening of my grand-daughter.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Buy nothing for Christmas

Blue Aarikka Angel and me
Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
Does it take courage to buy nothing for Christmas? The kids expect it. The relations send christmas cards, and for each one you get you have to send one back. It is the season for giving and advertisements appear in the shops as early as October.

Post early for Christmas is to blame, or more specifically the American soldiers who fought in the II World War. If they were to get their presents on time for the 25th then you had to post early for Christmas which ment shopping early as well, and so it burgeoned into a full blown consumer fest.

We get ties we don't want, dresses that don't fit, coats of the wrong colour, jewelrey that is obnoxious, sweets to make us sick, and more food than would feed a small village in Africa.

The celebration is supposed to be about Christ coming to the world and bringing the good news of peace and goodwill between God and man. The three wise men brought their gifts and so we commemorate the event by giving gifts to each other. But commerce has taken over to the extent that the peace and goodwill that should be christmas, has been replaced by stress and tension. Fights, arguments, drunkeness, abuse, dissatisfaction, depression, neglect, rejection are the emotions that are felt at the festive table.

Apparently Christmas is the time when hopes and expectations are built up. Families will be together, and will show love and care for each other, but instead dreams are dashed and Christmas becomes a crashing bore. We spend so much time thinking about love, and so little time feeling it.

It is too late to make this a Buy nothing for Christmas year but next year be a rebel and don't spend a cent. No cards, no presents. Don't cook a christmas meal, don't get landed with all the pots and and pans to clean up. Give up being a consumer. Consuming is not good for you.

Here is a Buy nothing for christmas song.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ilona's Graduation

Father and Daughter
Originally uploaded by Iita.
Attended Ilona's graduation at Plymouth University. She is now a B. Sc. in Psychology.

In my seat I silently rehearsed something that I could shout out. Something Finnish that only she would know. A phrase that would be go straight to her heart and nobody elses.

But the thought of all the precious words I could say brought the flush of blood to my throat, that thickening of the viens that is a precursor to tears.

Being proud is such an overpowering emotion.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Here's to your health

Originally uploaded by Uluriansanskrit.
When I studied microbiology we were taught about a famous case of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854.

John Snow drew a map of the area around Broad Street and came to the conclusion that the disease was being spread from a certain water pump, and that people were drinking water contaminated by sewage.

He was a doctor who considered the environment as a contributing factor towards health. Bad environment equals bad health. Simple concept.

Doctors today very rarely get out and about. They remain stuck in their offices. When a patient arrives in bad health, a pill in prescribed to make them well.

The doctor does not see their living conditions, nor does he see the food they have been eating, or anything to do with their lifestyle. Whether they are extremely rich or devilishly poor. Illness is being viewed entirely from a biochemical point of view. Pop the right pill and you will get better.

Many of the major diseases have been irradicated by vaccinations, for example smallpox and polio, and pills will continue to be given for high blood pressure and depression and impotence, but you have to wonder about the real reasons for all our aches and pains, rashes and headaches, yeast infections, stomach upsets, broken wrists, cracking hip joints, acne, spots, cracked nails, missing teeth, bad breath, bad eyesight, warts, impetigo, constipation, skin blotches, sores, cuts, bruises, sprains, cancerous throats and lungs, ruined liver and kidneys, worn knee joints, asthma, runny noses.

In actual fact healthiness has got more to do with the way we live and the things we do. But then again some poeple have no choice but to become ill. If the only source of water is a pump contaminated by sewage, even with the best will in the world, and regardless of all their prayers, they will be brought low. But when we are ill, we all want a miracle to happen, a magic pill to take away the pain, to restore our well being, and make us better, so we can continue on as before.

Now if the world were viewed as London of 1885 and there was a benevolent doctor like John Snow, who would go out and plot the areas of devastation, what kind of dots would he plot on his world map. What would the world map show when it comes to disease and famine, and would anybody care to do something about it?

He would find that in many countries in Africa they have no clean water, and gastrointestinal infections kills around 2.2 million people globally each year, mostly children in developing countries. That is more people than die in your average world war.

In a world where there are stockpiles of food going to waste, people go hungry to bed every night. What pill is available to make them all get better?

Tea Time for Children

Japanese green tea
Originally uploaded by tamaki.
When we were so new
and I wanted to impress
we drank our tea green.

Having no money
I collected the leaves
of arab peppermint.

To celebrate we
put fresh red monardia
in our sparse white cups.

Lapsang Souchong was
eagerly drunk even though
it was a mystery.

when we had become older
Assam surprised us.

Children are like teas
to be appreciated
when age catches you.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Don't buy anything day

Originally uploaded by 2m.
In Finland they recently had Don't buy anything day. A simple idea and when I heard it on the radio I decided to not buy anything that day.

No petrol for the car, no food for the fridge, no entertainment. I decided to see the day through with nothing. It was easy, but who could do it day out day in, which is the reality for many people in the world.

It was all about awareness. The stuff that we consume it must come from somewhere, and somebody must make it, but do we care? Not really.

You see I am the logo man. I believe in brands. I've got Nike on my feet, and Addidas pants, my socks are by le coq sportif, my shirt is by Ben Sherman, my glasses by Ray Bann, my watch is a Tag, but when I wear my Armani suit, I put on my Rolex. I drive a Merc for business and for pleasure I have the BMW.

See this belt buckle it is encrusted with real diamonds, and this ring on my little finger is worth a down payment for a mayfair flat. I've had all my teeth capped, and a hair transplant to cover that small bald patch that was developing on the crown of my head. The botox has removed all the lines and crows feet from around my eyes, and of course my nose is much smaller now. The spare tyre around my waist was removed by liposuction, and I wear a very discrete corset to keep the stomach flat. No-one ever notices because my suits are so well cut they disguise everything.

Look at me I have class. You see I buy only the best, and not only the best, but the most expensive. When you look at me you add up all the price tags of all the items I am wearing you must think to yourself that I must be somebody. Somebody with class, someone with taste, someone who is well stacked.

But every night I sleep naked.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A bunch of flowers for mum

A bunch of flowers for mum
Originally uploaded by -=HB=-.
This is one of the photos that I like of all the photos I have ever taken. It is tender and fragile. No face just a small hand holding a bunch of wilting flowers with badly bent stems.

Every child at one time or another will gather flowers for their mother. They will pick the best they can get. The idea behind giving flowers is to make the person receiving them feel glad or happy.

The camera only captures the external, and it very rarely captures the heart.

For me this photo for some strange reason is all about love, and that makes me happy.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Robert G. jr and Annie B.

Robert G. jr and Annie B.
Originally uploaded by -=HB=-.
Dug out some old photos of my father and mother, and some of me as a kid. Old photos really have a story to tell. I found a couple of photos of my grandfather and his brother on horseback when they were out in Argentina. They look a couple of rough characters, ready to beat the shit out of you just for a laugh.

When we visited my Aunt Marjorie she told of some of their exploits in South America. It sounded a bit like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, busting out of jail and fleeing the country back to Scotland. I don't know if any of it was true, since they were stories passed on from my grandfather to his children. Everyone wants to make their history more exciting tan it really is. But then again history itself can make your life more exciting than you would ever want it to be.

It has been said that for any Scotsman to succeed then he has to leave Scotland. That was what was drumed into me by my father, who felt trapped in the village, condemed to a life of unemployment. Get educated and get out.

Education was the key to open doors. If you had no education then all that was on offer was a life down the mines, and you could see too many old miners standing on the corners coughing their lungs up, due to the amount of coal dust they had swallowed in a lifetime. Mining ruined your health. Education made you healthy.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Working or cooking?

Reyna preparing bread
Originally uploaded by Mexicanwave.
Freud said that a persons mental health can be judged by their capacity to work. I think a better estimate can be made if you can assess their ability to cook.

Today I watched my wife make bread. I looked at her as she kneeded the dough, cut it into decent sized portions, and formed and patted it into the shape of a roll. Flour was on the table, and on her fingertips, and a smudge on her brow.

The rolls were laid out on a grease proof paper to rise and then placed in the oven to bake. The smell in the kitchen was good.

In the afternoon I made shepherds pie. Peeled the potatoes and boiled them, and when they were ready mashed them and added butter and milk. The mince meat I fried with onions and spiced with salt and pepper. I greased a earthen ware dish with butter and mixed the mashed potatoes and mince together, and topped it off with some breadcrumbs and cheese.

We ate it together with homemade beetroot. It was a fine satisfying meal.

What can you say about people who do not cook? Those that have the money to eat out... those that can't make dough or peel a potato or slice an onion. Those that have never cut an onion in half and looked at its layers... those that have never cut those layers in criss-crosses to obtain diced onion.

The ones who never lay the table for a meal, who throw something in the microwave, and eat it off their bellies while slouched in front of the TV. Those that eat alone, where eating is a chore rather than a pleasure. Something you do to survive. Something to fill in time.

It is strange to say that there is immense satisfaction to be had from preparing veretables for a soup. Working with a good japanese knife to cut and to slice... and what do you think about as you cut... you think of shapes and sizes, you think of colour. There are so many ways to slice a carrot. The Chinese even have time to carve roses out of carrots.

My father as he got older, first of all he stoped working, and as Alzheimers set in he stoped cooking, and when he stoped cooking he stoped eating, and he wasted away. That was when we had to get meals-one-wheels for him because he lost track of time, and did not know when it was time to eat. If it was dark and six o'clock it could either be morning or night to him. He did not remember anymore. When we visited him he told the most elaborate lies about the wondeful meal he had cooked yesterday. He would describe making soup in great detail, but the plain fact of the matter he had not cooked for himself in years. We would sit an politely listen. It would be pointless to challenge him on the matter. Only the things that he remembered were real to him, and if he remembered making soup yesterday then he must have made soup yesterday, and he would not be convinced otherwise.

I remarked to Maija that I found it pleasurable to cook a meal every day, and she asked me when would I find it pleasurable to do the washing up.

I think that washing up is just a short step away.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I love a rainy day

Have you every wanted to get soaked in the rain, and shake yourself like a dog to get the water off you?

There was one mid-summer we took all of the kids for a picnic in the forest. We had bread, and a rice and tuna salad. We cycled into the forest to find a good place. We climbed up some rocks and found a good flat place and as we spread out the food on the ground, a black thunder cloud rolled over our heads.

Just as we started to eat, large heavy drops of rain began to fall. The raindrops were warm, and they made a sound like bubble wrap popping as they hit the ground. There was no discussion about packing up and heading off home. So we sat there and ate our food, hoping that the clouds would pass, but the rain picked up, and soon it was bucketing down. That sheet rain you could feel when it hits you.

The kids were wondering what the hell was going on. Mum and Dad were sitting in the rain, getting soaked and eating their food. They were not moving. They were not giving instructions to pack up and head back home, so the kids got stuck into their food, and got soaked as well. Their hair got wet and was plastered to their faces. Their T-shirts took on that transparent wet look. Trousers and jeans became slick and wet. We were looking at each other, observing how wet we all looked. We didn't actually get around to laughing at the absurdity of the situation, but there was a giggle bubbling inside.

Lawrence Durrell once said that his ambition was to be very still on the outside and dance around on the inside. As we sat in that summer downpour. Not running for cover, not hiding or taking shelter, just sitting on a bare rock being drenched, it seemed to be the perfect thing to do on a perfect day.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Spoon Children

Originally uploaded by -=HB=-.
On my birthday I went to the museum of modern art in Helsinki with Raisa. There were many interesting exhibits, and videos. The best experiance at the exhibition was a series of 27 ceramic pots streching diagonally across the room. Each pot had a piece of thick cardboard on top of it an inside was a "Scent from Babylon". Raisa was wondering which scent would make the best perfume. She liked the birch tar for some reason. Strong and earthy no doubt.

For me it was ambergris, which according to the dictionary is a waxy substance containing mainly cholesterol secreted by the intestinal tract of the sperm whale, and often found floating in the sea: used in the manufacture of perfumes. Smelling good is not for everyone. It is reported that Napoleon sent a message to Josephine, "Home in 3 days, don't wash." What a weird small man he was.

There was a series of five photos where people had their faces covered by spoons, and I decided when I get home I am going to do a series with my five children. So I took sepia coloured photos of the cloured originals with a spoon over my face.

My children look haunted having a spoon for a father.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Näätämö 18th Nov 233
Originally uploaded by GBH.
Today I deleted most of my photos from Flickr. What I did leave was the Näätämö series complete with mysterious alien spaceship. I deleted the Jugend series, trashed the fishmarket stuff, threw out the pike gutting series with Pat and Raisa, removed all the Seurasarri series, cabin and sunset, the lot. Ditched all the flowers, scrapped the MSD molecules. All of the montages of favourites got the heave. Elli the angel got the chop, and Ilona on Spiderman's hand made a trip over the blue event horizon.

I then went an removed all the information from my profile save a reference to Hildegard von Bingen. I have a soft spot for 12th century nuns who made music from heaven. I removed myself from all of the groups I subscribed to save Finland Finland Finland, apparently I can't remove myself from it because I am the admin.

I reduced my sets from 15 to 3 so all that is left is the greatest party trick ever, the Näätämö series, (nobody even saw the aliens I had cleaverly crafted into the photos... jokes are not jokes if you are the only person laughing), and a series of photos about benches in Heitaniemi graveyard.

Now I have to wonder what order to put the sets in. TRICK, ALIEN ABDUCTION and DEATH seems to be the order of the day.

Now I must away, and finish off that Los Monteros red, that I bought myself for my birthday, and play a game of scrabble with the wife.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Big Billy and the rhubarb wine

My father was a great gardener. In the winter he would get manure delivered from the Castlemains farm, and he would work it into the soil ready for the spring. At one end of the garden was a couple of rows of rhubarb. We had more than enough rhubarb to give away to anyone who wanted it.

My dad hit on the idea of making rhubarb wine with the stuff. No matter that it was as bitter as hell with lots of oxcalic acid. It was red and therefore would produce great red wine.

He did not have any fermentation equipment and he used a big green bread bin to do the fermentation in. The rhubarb was cut up and mixed with sugar then topped up with water. Before the lid was placed on the bin 4 slices of toast were floated on top of the liquid. I have no idea what the function of this bread was but apparently it was an intregal part of the process.

After a suitable period of time the liquid was filtered through a muslin nappy and bottled. The bottles were stored in the sideboard in the living room. My father would have kept them there forever, being under the impression that a good wine needed time to mature, but this was not the opinion of Big Billy who persuaded my father that there was a need to crack open a bottle or two to test its quality.

Big Billy was renowned for being able to hold his drink, no matter what he drunk, so it came as a surprise to my father that after the drinking session Big Billy had gone home and spewed up in bed. The story went that his mother had found him bleary eyed and lying in his vomit, and the only word that came out of his mouth was "Bob".

The rumour went around that my father had poisoned Big Billy, but my father always maintained that after consuming 2 bottles of perfectly good rhubarb wine Big Billy had gone and drunk 8 pints of stout, and as anybody will tell you.

Beer before wine
makes you feel fine.
Wine before beer
makes you feel queer.

I believed my father, and still do.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

We're aw gan' tae Blackpool

Blackpool Tower
Originally uploaded by silentresonance.
Miners in the village worked 50 weeks of the year, and during that time they all saved up to go on a two week holiday to Blackpool. There were as many pubs as there were churches in the village. The miners who went to church were Brethern or Baptist. The miners who went to pubs were football fans. To a man they all supported Rangers and dispised Celtic.

The miners who went to church worked in their gardens, or went for walks with their dogs over the hills. The miners who went to pubs, well went to pubs and pished their wages agaist the wall. It was the miners who went to pubs that headed off to Blackpool. The miners who went to church would not been seen in such a den of iniquity.

When the day arrived there were about 11-12 coaches lined up along the main road and the miners and their families would pile in with their crates of beer, and as the buses pulled away, there would be waving and screaming from the bus windows "We're aw gan' tae Blackpool". For the 2 weeks that they were away, the village was a ghost town.

My father was not a miner and when I was a boy he was unemployed all of the time. From when I was age 5 until 18. I did not think it strange he did not work. My mother was dead, and he was there to look after me. Got me up to school in the morning, fed me breakfast, cooked me dinner, and sent me off to bed with supper.

I never went to Blackpool... but having passed through the town later in life I don't think I would have liked it.

Happy father's day Dad.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Accidents will happen

Originally uploaded by hillarybird.

By profession my dad was a plasterer. A few years after he married he had an accident. He was up on some scaffolding which was not secured properly, and as he walked out along the plank, it tipped up like a see-saw.

He fell with legs splayed, and he was hit between the legs by a tressle. He fell to the ground, and the plank that he had been walking on, tipped over and came crashing down and hit him on the skull.

He was taken to hospital with a fractured skull. There was internal bleeding from his brain so they bored two holes in his skull to let the blood out and relieve the pressure.

While in hospital the insurance company visited my mother and persuaded her that since most likely he was going to die she should take a lump sum of money to cover the accident instead of a life long compensation. It made more sence since he was going to die anyway. He did not die, and he had to live with his disability.

He never worked as a plasterer again. He said it was because he had developed a fear of heights. He combed his hair forward to cover the holes that had been bored in his head.

He often remarked that the silver plate they and put in his head to seal up the holes was probably worth more than the money the insurance company had paid him.

Nothing but the dead and dying...

beauty mark
Originally uploaded by Vanita.
The village I grew up in had 5 coal mines. The most famous one was Knockshinnock, and only because it had a disaster on the 7th of Sept 1950. My uncle Andrew, the one I went fishing with, was walking home over the fields at the end of his shift, when he felt the ground loosen and shudder beneath his feet. Behind him the whole of the field seemed to be disappearing and collapsing into a gigantic hole.

What had happened was the mine workings had come too near the surface and had broken through into a lake of liquid peat, which then poured down into the pit. Thirteen lives were lost.

The pits closed down one by one until there was only one pit left in Aryshire called The Barony, and all the miners went to work there. When it was closed the miners moved away to England and the village died. The schemes with the miners houses are all boarded up. The place is a ghost town, with no jobs for anyone.

This was the village that my father was traped in. For as long as I can remember all of his letters to me were about getting away. When he was younger it was to Australia or New Zealand, and when he was older it was back home to Wick in Caithness. He never went anywhere.

He died in the year 2000. The year he always said he would live to. He was 83 years old. He was buried in the same grave as my mother. I placed his guitar on top of his coffin, kept his mandolin for myself, and gave his accordian away.

At his burial were many people that I did not know. I recited a Scottish version of the 23rd psalm that he loved to recite to me. That was the best I could do. Passing words back to him that he had given to me.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Life through the letterbox

Originally uploaded by boskizzi.

My mother died when I was 8. I was shipped off to an aunt's while the funeral was arranged. I did not attend the funeral, and nobody ever spoke about her dying. I suppose all the relatives were being sensitive, and protecting my innocence. I did not see the mourning process. There was no expression of grief. I would have expected if I had been at the graveside I would have seen some tears surely.

I never saw my father crying over the loss of his wife, and he never talked to me about it. But I do remember one incident that has stayed with me for life.

We lived in an upstairs house and if you lifted the letterbox lid you could look right up the stairs to the top of the landing. My father loved to stand at the top of the stairs and play the fiddle. He said it was because the acoustics were good.

One day soon after my mother had died I came home and I could hear him playing at the top of the stairs. Instead of opening the door and going in, I lifted the letterbox lid and peered into the gloom. He was playing "the flours o' the forest have a wee'd a'waw" a lament to grieve the dead at the battle of Culloden moor, and what pain and sorrow he had never been able to say in words cames streaming out of him in this one song.

I blinked and tears came to my eyes and I let the letterbox lid quietly drop. I waited until he had finished playing then went in.

He didn't say anything, and I didn't say anything either.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Make a new friend everyday

Originally uploaded by Kether.
My Dad would be standing out at the bus stop and Maija would get out of the car and go over to him. He would not recognise her, but he would never let on. The alarm bells would be going off in his head. This person knows me and I should know her.

"Hello Bob nice to see you again"

Thinks: Who the hell is she? Says: And nice to see you again too.

"We've had a long drive up."

Thinks: Where is she from? Says: Was there much traffic?

"Just after Cambridge the M11 was terrible"

Thinks: So she is not from around here. Says: Did you drive all that way by yourself?

"No we split it half and half, Rob drove to Scotch Corner and I drove the rest.

Thinks: So she is with somebody called Rob. Says: How long will you and Rob be here for?

"Oh we thought we could stay the weekend with you, if that is OK?"

Thinks: Stay the weekend with me, they must be friends or relatives. Says: Well the house is in a bit of a mess.

"Well we can have a tidy up, and get the fire going, cook a meal, and you can give us a tune on the fiddle"

Think: She knows alot about my house and my habits. Says: That would be grand

At some point in the conversation it would click in place that Maija was his daughter-in-law and Rob was his son, but he could not hold that idea for long. When sitting beside the coal fire he would confuse me with his brother Andrew and start talking to me and calling me Addie.

He would tell the most elaborate stories about his son Robert who was doing well for himself over in Finland. I half expected some horror story to unfold and I would learn what my father really thought of me, but it never came. He only had good words to say about me. To sit and listen to someone talk to you, about yourself, not realising that the person they are speaking about is sitting right in front of them, is an un-nerving experiance.

What was important though was that the storehouse of memories in my father's heart towards me were good ones, and he verbalised them to me as though I were a stranger.

Fishy tales

Originally uploaded by Jack Pine.
I fished on the river Afton and sometimes on the Nith. The english would come up and fish the slow moving reaches of the Nith for pike and pearch.

Sitting on the bank of a river and throwing bait into the water to attract fish is not fishing, to really fish you had to be Scottish and "walk the water", and the fish the english caught and thought were magnificent were beneath contempt. The Scots would kill pike and pearch and leave them to rot on the banks of the river. The only true fish that a fisherman would go after were trout or salmon.

Most of the time I went fishing with my Uncle Andrew who was a miner, and all of his free time was taken up with fishing. When you are down in the black dank of the mines you tend to spend all of your free time out in the open air and in the sunshine. He was a worm fisher and loved to go fishing when the Nith was in spate. When the water was muddy. It was then that he caught his biggest and best fish. Even though I tried to emulate his moves, observed how he crouched, cast the line in places that he favoured, I never caught anything. Some people are good at fishing, some people are good at betting on horses. It is a mystry what you have to do to succeed.

My father was of the opinion that the secret was in the worms you used. He was a great fisher when he was a boy, or at least he said so, and he would tell tales of titanic struggles to land a salmon. The reeling in and the letting go of the line, the exact gauge of the trace, the breaking strength of the line and its colour.

I would trudge home with an empty basket and he would say. "Let me see the worms you're using" I would show him. "Too small you need bigger worms" I would use bigger worms but get nothing and he would say "It's cloudy today you should have tried bramble worms" I would try bramble worms which I dug up from the sewage plant on the outskirts of town. They were stripy worms, but they didn't work either. "That's because you are not putting them on your hook properly" He would tell me how to bait a hook and out I went again, but only returned empty handed.

He only ever told me what to do. He never actually went fishing with me. I wonder why that was?

Shaggy dog stories

Originally uploaded by krystalm.
We did not have a TV. Well that is not exactly true we did have a TV but it was not plugged in, and it did not have an ariel, and besides my dad had it locked away in the living room cupboard, where no-one could see it. Especially the radar men in their radar vans who went around looking for people who had TV's, but had not paid their license.

So what do you do on a cold winters night, well you stoked up the fire with coal, and slouched back in your chair with you feet up on the mantle and listened to your Dad tell stories. He would do impersonations of Mary the dyker talking to her black lab Beaut. Mary was a woman, and by profession she was a dyker, which ment she built dry stone dykes which are common on the Ayrshire hills.

Beaut was her dog who accompanied her everywhere. Beaut was a crazy barker. He would loose control when he barked. The Mary the dyker stories were always the same. Mary giving ineffective commands to shut Beaut up, and Beaut becoming more agitated and vocal, and ignoring her commands completely.

The stories contained descriptions of Mary's face, red with rage, veins pulsating on the brow of her temple, and spittle flying, as she shouted at her dog. As for Beaut all he ever did was bark, but to spice up the story there were graphic descriptons of how his testicles moved during a barking frenzy. My dad would bark like Beaut, and scream like Mary, and carry the dialogue between dog and woman for a good 15 minutes.

Even at the end of his life he was still making jokes about dogs. On observing a long haired Scottish terrier barking outside the window he mused that if you shoved a broom stick up that dogs arse it would make a fine feather duster.

I wonder what made him think that way, and having had that thought, why did he let the words slip out of his mouth.

Alzheimer's I suppose.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dancing the blues away

Originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Civilized man thinks out his difficulties... Primitive man dances out his difficulties.

R.R. Marrett

How I long for a Ceilldh. A time of people dancing together. Social dancing, raucous and roaring. Drops of Brandy, Strip the willow, Dashing white sargeant.

Shouting out at the top of you lungs "Best set in the hall", and when the fiddler makes the rosen dust fly off the bow, to give that incoherent scream of "HOOOOoooochhhhhh" that guttural roar that is so celtic, it could be a warcry, a challenge to every other dancer, to dance wilder, faster, and more fearsome than me.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The parting glass

I grew up with music in our house. My father played the fiddle. He played the mandolin and he played the accordian. His brother was in a dance band. I learnt songs at an early age. I sang songs in the streets. Folk songs, rebel songs, songs about the dead and dying, songs about injustice, comical songs, songs by Robert Burns. There was a great oral tradition, of songs being passed on from one generation to another.

While in London living in lodgings with Norman Blyth at Neasden NW10, and living with an Irish landlady, we would go to Irish clubs and they would sing the saddest songs in the world, they would sing fighting songs, and it seemed each and every one had a great voice, and knew a song that nobody else knew, and remembered words and melody, as though it were running through their blood. Tunes passed from father to son.

On the evening that Norman and I set off to sail around the world we fell in with Terry from Cork. He was fat. He was middle aged. He had a grey stubble of a beard, and greasy grey hair that hung in curls over his brow. His teeth were tobacco stained, and he enjoyed his stout. He had the voice of an angel.

We all got roaring drunk an in the moonlight at half past one in the morning the three of us staggered out of the pub. Me and Norman on either side of Terry, and him with his arms around our necks, and as we walked we sung. We sung "I've been a wide rover", and if it so happened we stoped under the light of a lampost we gave the chorus laldie. We sang "Ye rambling boys of pleasure"

It was down by Sally's Garden one evening late I took my way.
there I spied this pretty little girl, and those words to me sure she did say
She advised me to take love easy, as the leaves fall from the tree.
But I was young and foolish, with my darling could not agree.

We sang in harmony with Terry taking the top notes like a good Irish tenor, and there under the light of the lampost Terry grabbed us fiercely around our necks, and pulled us closer to tell us that he loved us.

It was the drink talking. "Take me with you boys, I don't want to work the night shift at Heinz baked beans anymore. It's the freedom of the sea for me. Take me with you" We knew he didn't mean it, but you want to show solidarity when your drunk. He launched into "Hunt the bonny shoals of herring"

Oh, it was a fine and a pleasant day
Out of Yarmouth harbour I was faring
As a cabin boy on a sailing lugger
For to go and hunt the shoals of herring

As we sang we were on the deck of that fishing boat, with the salt spray in our faces. The road was heaving as though in a gale. We held on to each other to stop from falling over, and we sang the words so they could be heard above the whipping wind. Windows from a few houses were flung open and angry english accents told us to "shut the fuck up", and that only served to bring our gaelic blood to the boil and for us to sing even louder.

The Scots and the Irish have only ever had songs as effective weapons against the English. While cannon and muskets and sabers and swords rust, break, and disappear. Songs live on.

We reached Terry's house and he was doing that drunk handshake that seems to go on for ever. Just when you think he was going to let go he would renew his grip and squeeze harder. His hands were crossed in front of him and he shook both my hand and Norman's, and then he took his solo "The parting glass"

Oh, all the money e'er I had, I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done, alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass, Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh, all the comrades e'er I had, they're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had, they'd wished me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call, Goodnight and joy be with you all.

The longing and the heartache in his voice was too much for Norman and me and we stood in the middle of the road weeping softly like idiots, the clear snot running from our noses. The sadness was for wanting there to be more nights like this, and knowing that there never would be another night like this ever again.

I feel I have failed my children since I never taught them songs or poems. What legacy or heritage do they have?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Legendary Marvin Pontiac

What kind of music would you expect to hear from the son of an African father from Mali and a Jewish mother from New Rochelle New York? Marvin Pontiac was raised in Mali from age four to fifteen, then moved to Chicago. His first recording was in 1952, "I'm A Doggy". Following several other recordings Pontiac was institutionalized after riding his bicycle down the street naked in Slidell LA. Like his mother before him, who was also committed to a mental hospital, he lived in constant fear that he would be abducted by aliens. He was killed by a bus in 1977 and just like Robert Johnstone, his recordings were only recently rediscovered and reissued.

His music even though it was recorded in the 50's and 60's has a jagged modern edge to it. At the time most people were releasing records at 33 rpm or 45 rpm, but Marvin becasue of his obsession with prime numbers had all of his records mastered at 37 rmp. As a consequence nobody ever knew what Marvin sounded like live, if they played his disks on a conventional turntable. David Bowie says of the collection "A dazzling collection! It strikes me that Pontiac was so uncontainably prescient that one might think that these tracks had been assembled today."

The photos in this article were take by a fellow inmate of the Esmeraldo State Mental Institute, and show off Marvin's penchant for wearing a chef's hat while dressed in his bedclothes.

There are no linear notes with the CD so I have put together some coments on each track so you can appereciate the man and his music.

Track 1 I am a doggy. This track is an underground cult classic, and Snoop doggy Dog has said that it was when he first heard this 37 rpm record from '52 that he decided to call himself Snoop Doggy Dog.

Track 2 Small car This track features traditional tribal instruments from Mali, and is a rare example of Marvin singing after electric shock therapy. Barry White says that he was very influenced by the vocal styling of Marvin during this period.

Track 3 Now I am happy when released caused a sensation and the riff that Marvin laid down was stolen by James Brown, and used in many of his hit records. Marvin tried to sue Brown for copyright infringment, but he lost the court case and became clinicaly depressed. Some believe that he began to have mental problems during this period of his life.

Track 4 Power John Lennon said that he was astounded when he first heard the tape loops on Power, and that Marvin had been the inspiration behind Tomorrow never knows

Track 5 Runnin' round This features Marvin on wah-wah guitar. It is the earliest known recording of wah-wah guitar. Jimi Hendrix during his Electric Ladyland interview said "Marvin is the man, he taught me everything I know about wah-wah"

Track 6 Pancakes Altough released in the USA this record never made it to the Billboard charts, but for some unknown reason it was a phenomenal hit in Nigeria and Japan. Marvin plays a traditional tribal xylophone and gives the track a strange oriental feel. This was made when Marvin was in his Zen period.

Track 7 Bring me rocks Although Marvin always contested that he even experimented with psychodelic drugs the words in this song somehow betray an involvement. "My lips are big enough to park a car in them" gives a clear indication that he was edging towards a nervous breakdown.

Track 8 Rubin This song was recorded in the music therapy room of the Esmeraldo State Mental Institution. Marvin always claimed it was about his Polish Jewish grandfather.

It has the sad lyric "Rubin has lost his way", but his doctor at the time Dr Taurus Waist claims that Marvin is really singing this song about himself, and lamenting the fact that he feels lost.

Track 9 Wanna Wanna As with much of Marvin's music the hook line from this track has been stolen by the Spice Girls. When questioned about the similarities between their first hit single and Marvin's Wanna Wanna they categorically denied that they had ever heard of Marvin Pontiac.

Track 10 Sleep at night Recorded in 1955 there has been contention over who has played harmonica on this sparse early track. Most critics agree that it is Little Walter, before he had his famous fight with Marvin, before the cookie crumb incident, when the two men came to blows over who had been eating digestive biscuits and playing the harmonica at the same time.

Track 11 Arms and Legs Recorded when Marvin was delusional. It is a chronicle of just how far Marvin's mental health had deteriorated. An uneasy track to listen to because Marvin's paranoia is so self evident.

Track 12 She ain't going home Elmore James said that it was after hearing this track in the 50's that he decided to take up slide guitar.

Track 13 Little Fly Near the end of his career Marvin released a novelty record. He was so desperate to have a hit. Although it is a childs novelty song, it still contains references to aliens. While at the Esmeraldo Institute he feared that like his mother he would be captured by aliens.

Track 14 No kids It is rather insensitive that the compilers of this CD have included 14 tracks. Marvin would never have agreed to this since he was fanatical about prime numbers and would surely have left the album at 13 tracks. However this was the last song Marvin ever recorded. It was after this recording that he stole a bike and rode off naked into the sunset. (The first time when questioned by the police for riding a bike naked in Slidell L.A. he remarked that he rode naked so there would be a better exchange of molecules between him and the bike. It was his firm belief that if he could exchange all of the molecules of his body with those of the bike, he would thus escape detection by aliens.

Marvin Pontiac was run over by a bus and killed in 1977.

"In my formative years, as an aspiring bass player, there was nothing I listened to more than Marvin Pontiac." -Flea
"A Revelation." -Leonard Cohen
"Marvin would kick your ass for nothing. A true genius, Marvin was a pure original." -Iggy Pop
"I don't believe anything I hear about Marvin Pontiac" -Bob Dylan

Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween memory

Dead Head
Originally uploaded by raygrasso.
I had a rumage around Flickr for photos of Halloween. There are tons of them. Many pictures are of adults dressing up as vampires, witches, skeletons, devils. Many of the masks are grotesque and horrible. White makeup and black lipstick seem to be the order of the night.

There were also some photos of some very young children with white painted faces, and dark sunken eyes. Their faces were wan, and a sadness was in their eyes. Party time. Time to go out and enjoy yourselves, and collect sweets. Carnival

The one halloween I remember as a child was when my grandmother tried to do something special for me. I must have been five at the time. She hung some decorations outside the bedroom window. The decorations were the concertina type that you pull out and hang up at christmas. Nothing wrong with that. There was a slight breeze and the decorations made a strange rustling noise against the window. The sodium street lamp shone through the decorations and the the cutout patterns cast strange shadows on the bedroom wall.

If the shadows had remained still it might have been OK, but since the decorations were moving in the wind, the shadows in the bedroom moved about, and I could easily imagine hollow eye sockets and sharp teeth. Phantoms in the room with me. It scared me. I could not go to sleep, but instead watched the shadows flicker on the walls. If I shut my eyes for a moment the window would be broken and evil would rush in and get me. I asked my grandmother to take the decorations down since they frightened me. She explained it was only the wind and the yellow streetlamp and that I should not be afraid. I cried and pleaded for them to be taken down, and in the end they relented and went out and removed the decorations from outside the window. I was terrified. Terrified by shadows. The unknown was outside my window tapping to get in.

Is it not odd that parents who do everything in their power to protect their children from evil, from violence on TV, who prohibit them from playing video games that involve death and mayhem, who walk them safely to school and back again, who protect and cherish them, on this one night of the year dress their little angels up as devils, and instill in them the stuff of nightmares.

Unhappy halloween to everybody.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Corporate flag America

Originally uploaded by jazzbiker.
By 2nd November the American election will be over, but at the moment the campaigns for and against still roll on. I suppose Michael Moore got the first shot in with 9/11 and since then the anti-bush demos have rolled out across the nation.

I wonder how many anti-Kerry demos have been organised? I would estimate that not as many as anti-bush. There is so much energy liberated at these mass demonstrations. Bush is an easy target, and Moore has supplied all the ammunition anyone would need, to paint up a poster, that takes a pop-shot at old George.

The common theme is that George looks out for the interests of business, George will go to war, George is a cowboy who believes in B movies from the 50's and that a good shoot-up will solve most problems in the world. George is a liar.

If you do a google search for "anti-bush" you get 1 060 000 hits and if you do "anti-kerry" you get 487 000 hits. Does that mean that Bush is more unpopular. No, it just means he is a more visible and easy target.

How many people are expending their energy on being pro-active and getting behind the candidates. Using google again shows that pro-kerry has 103 000 and pro-bush has 228 000.

The ratio in both cases "pro and anti" is 2:1

The only conclusion that you can come to is that lots more enegry is being used to be aggressively negative than to be aggressively positive.

After the election is over we can then decided if the negative anti-bush campaign got Kerry elected. This would mean that he was elected by a disgruntled electorat who are seething for change and if he does not bring it then their spite and venom may well turn on him.

If the positive pro-bush campaign gets George elected. Then it only proves one thing... being positive wins over being negative, and that for some strange reason seems to be a good result.

It is all propaganda, and John Kerry would never carry a gun.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Getting dark on bridge

Getting dark on bridge
Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
Went to Seurasaari on Sunday. It was a bleak day. Gray clouds in the sky. The tourists seem to have disappeared and only a few people are out walking with sticks. The birds are gathering together getting ready to fly south.

I took the camera with me and did three series of photos.

Gray Sunday day at Seurasaari

Reflections in puddles and ponds

Sunsets and clouds.

I saw a swan with signets. Their feathers were still grey. Does that mean that winter still has not arrived. When their feathers turn white, and they fly away, will be the signal that winter has arrived.

When the air is firey and heavy with thunder, then it seems that the scent from the ceders, and the salty breeze from the sea is so much stronger. Or perhaps being out in the open allows you to breathe better, and you are opened up to stimulation.

What was noticeable was that there were isolated couples standing still and looking out at the sea. It was as though they were drinking in some goodness into their souls. At a lookout point at the highest point on the island, a young couple looked at the sunset. She leaned back into his chest, he encircled her with his arms, she rested her head against his neck.

It so happens that the jogging track runs directly past this point, and as the couple stood and watched the sunset, sweat drenched joggers laboured up the hill and ran on past them, never stoping to observe the view.

I heard him whisper in her ear. "Ihmisillä on niin kiire." She half turned and kissed him on the cheek and said "Niin on."

Friday, October 22, 2004

Worlds on Fire

Torres Gemelas Caracas
Originally uploaded by danielif.

How much does it cost to make a pop video?

Find out at Worlds on Fire

Hearts break, hearts mend
love still hurts
Visions clash, planes crash
still there's talk of saving souls
still cold's closing in on us.

We part the veil on our killer sun.
Stray from the straight line,
on this short run.
The more we take,
the less we become.
The fortune of one man
means less for some.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Balance, Equilibrium, Centre of Gravity

Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
I like doing tricks. This particular trick amazes me every time I do it. It should not work but it does. It is a very delicate thing to set up. It requires more from your sense of touch than it does from your sight. You feel when it is the right time to let go. When everything is in balance, and equilibrium has been achieved.

I always have to do this trick with my eyes closed, and I get a sensation when I know it is now perfect and a balance has been achieved.

Sight probably is the biggest stumbling block to knowing. Reasoning and looking for evidence as to why things work or don't work is often a fruitless exercise.

It is all about feeling if a thing is right or not. In matters of life that feeling is usually associated with conscience or intuition. We know when things are right, and we know when things are wrong.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Clean heroes and dusty rogues

dusty hand
Originally uploaded by tamaki.

Alas, after all has been said, I still can't choose a virtuous man as my hero. I can explain why: the virtuous man has been turned into a sort of horse, and there is no author who hasn't ridden him, urging him on with his whip or whatever comes to hand. Now I feel the time has come to make use of a rogue. So let's harness him for a change.

-- Nikolai Gogol Dead Souls

I have just finished reading "How to be good" written by a man with a woman as the main character. It is basically about people behaving stupidly. A woman, who is an adulteress, wants forgivness from her husband. He forgives her and she is happy for a time, then is infuriated by his piousness.

It is about getting better than we deserve, that our foolish stupidity is not rewarded by rejection and abandonment. It is a story about fragile forgiveness, making mistakes, and having a good heart. It is about women vicars who preach the gospel of love, yet don't believe in God. Of faith healers who cure sick people because they are sad. The removal of sadness from the husband at the right time is enough to enable him to forgive his wife.

I have wondered where you learn the most from. From a hero or a rogue, and at the moment I am persuaded that the rogue can teach us more than the hero. When other people make mistakes we recognise that we make the very same mistakes. We recognise injustice because we are unjust. We think about hunger in the world when we sit down to the Sunday roast... no we don't we stuff ourselves and tumble off to bed with a sore stommach to sleep off the gorge fest, and it is then we think that perhaps we have eaten too much.

When a hero acts heroically, we are not captivated by his valour, since we do not do heroic deeds ourselves. To be a hero requires you to be something special, something separate and different. We are all rogues and that requires no special talent. We just drift into it, roguishness.

It is like dust settling on a window ledge. You lick your finger and write in the dust. I am a rogue, and you notice that there is a clean surface under the dust. We become dusty without even knowing it. Dust covered people easily see other people who are covered with dust.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Today is tomorrow

Jasper and Oliver
click photo to enlarge

Olli and Jasper came over for the weekend. We had promised to go swimming with them. They had brought their goggles and trunks. Maija checked and found out that there was a swimming competition at the EspoonLahti pool so it was impossible to go.

The pool was being used for a competition on both Saturday and Sunday. Olli was termendously disappointed, because Raisa on Friday night had promised him that he could go swimming tommorow. He tries to persuade us to take him any way. A promise is a promise.

With a desperate look on his face Olli says "Mum said that we could go swimming tomorrow"

Gently as a shepherd tending one of his lambs I say, "Yes but the pool is being used and we can't get in"

Olli frows and half closes his eyes to a couple of piercing slits. "But Mum really, really, truly said we could go swiming tomorrow"

I drop down on one knee to look at him squarely in the eye. Always a good technique when dealing with a obstinate child. "Well perhaps we can go to another pool tomorrow"

In an exasperated tone Olli says "But today is tomorrow, my mum said so, so we have got to go now"

Gentle but firm, with only a hint of menace in my voice I say. "I've already said we can go tomorrow"

Olli brightens up when he hears we can go tomorrow, and he grabs his stuff and heads for the door.

I am left gawping at him open mouthed, with a puzzled look on my face. "Where do you think you are going?"

Olli slumps his shoulders and drops his head forwards from the expression on his face it is apparent he thinks he is dealing with an old senile idiot. "To the swiming pool"

I shake my head in amazement. He has no comprehension of time. "But I said we can go tomorrow"

Thrusting out his chin and with eyes agog, and his white teeth are gleaming, Olli very clearly and distictly for my benifit repeats very slowly with exagerated pronounciation. "But today is tomorrow. Mummy has said so"

I get on my high horse. I have to stamp my authority on the situation, so I very sternly say "No today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow"

"No you are wrong" and here Olli invokes the words of his mother the supreme authority on all things chronogolical, who has the definitive word on the passing of the seasons, who makes pronoucments about the days of the week, and who's word is the law. "Mummy said that today is tomorrow so there. That's final"

It is impossible to argue with the logic of a 4 year old. Later we get them packed off to bed. In the morning Olli awakes and the first thing he asks with eyes asparkle. "Is today tommorow?"

I smile and shake my head. "Yes Olli today is tomorrow let's go swimming"

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Family and friends

click photo to enlarge

Mother Theresa said there are two kinds of poverty. There is material poverty and spiritual poverty. Poverty in the material sence is all about the things we lack. Is there food on the table, can the rent be paid, can I buy and new pair of shoes for the winter, will I be able to take my wife out for a meal on her birthday, is my car too old, can I go on holiday, does the wrist watch I bought 20 years ago at an knockdown auction need replacing, what do I do if I can't find a job, do I need a better camera, should I buy cheap salmon or expensive meat, would a bottle of wine be too much to ask for?

And what about Spiritual poverty. It is the lack of human comfort, the lack of contact with other people, it is seperation and isolation, it is being forgotten, it is about being alone. It is about being a leper on the streets of Calcutta. Deserted with nobody to care for you. In one word it is about abandonment. The fatherless children, the orphan on the doorstep, the gilted bride at the alter, the besotted pensioners left alone in care homes by their children, the divorved husbands longing for acceptance, the struggling wives wanting their husbands to listen to them, abused children. The hollowness of modern existance.

Going through some recent photos I came apon this one, and everyboby is either being hugged or held. That warms my heart. This was the night we made individual pizzas. Everyone could choose their own ingredients to make their own pizza.

Ilana made a minimalistic pizza with only cheese and tommatoes, and we discussed the philosophy of the thin pizza, for keeping you slim. Noa her daughter made a judo champions pizza, with tuna and ham and pineapple, and three sorts of cheese, and olives, which was classified as a heart attack pizza, and which proved irresistable to her mother who forsook her minimalism for the delights of cholesterol. Rebbecca and Jim made pizzas with no name, or were loathed to christen their creations. Everybody made pizzas and everybody shared a part of their creation.

We ate cabbage salad Israeli style, with lemon ,salt, and olive oil. We sang songs. We laughed. We ate, We danced. We were happy. Moments like this make your heart soar, and you know what it is to be blessed by children and friends.

This is the richness that we all long for.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Dishing up Muikku

Dishing up Muikku
Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
Today I went to the Fish Festival at the south harbour in Helsinki. Lots of boats had come in from Kotka and Porvo and from the islands. They were selling marinated herring off the back of the boats and black bread.

I wandered around and took some photos which you can view on flickr as Fish faces and Fried Fish I wandered around and bought myself some piping hot muikku fried in butter in rye flour and seasoned with salt an pepper. Simple but beautiful.

I bought some pickled salmon in dill and lemon juice, a small black bread, and something that looked like a haggis but in actual fact was rolled smoked salmon.

I took them to Christopher's and we ate everything for supper. Lovely.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mannerheim's tombstone

Went to Hietaniemi graveyard today and took lots of pictures of chairs. Old chairs neglected, worn and rusted. Most of them were in the Orthodox part of the graveyard. No chairs were in the Jewish part and only one in the Islamic part. For a slideshow of all the chairs and benches go to Chairs and benches at Hietaniemi graveyard

There was a Jewish Graveyard which was walled in and the gate was locked. There were no new stones there, only old ones. What conclusions can you draw from that? There are no Jews in Helsinki, or they get buried some place else?

Behind the Jewish part is a large area for Muslims. It is guarded by video cameras. All of the graves in there are new, or at least none of the stones have gathered moss or lichen.

Jews and Muslims lying in peace what a dream. It would appear that muslims fought in the continuation war from 1939-44.

Mannerheim's tomb is enormous and a few steps away from it is a small cross for Gereral Ehrnrooth, who some say was a more inspiring man than Mannerheim.

Sloping away from Mannerheims tomb are the graves of the soldiers who died in the 2nd world war. Each grave has some sort of blood red fushia. The flowers look like drops of blood.

The is a special hill for artists. I saw Alver Aalto's grave and Akseli Gallen-Kalella. There is quite a few weird pagan like stones of Celtic or Norse origin.

I was told by a gardener they were put up around the turn of the century when Finnish people were considering their identity. Breaking free from Sweden and Russia. Taking new Finnish names and discovering their past.

Some of the stones are quite striking, but other monuments have been ravaged by the passage of time.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Falling down... tumbling ground

Wall of the KELA building

Went for an interview this morning at the employment office. They still wanted a final statement from EMBL. Excuse me hang on a second, I have given you copies of my contracts, which shows the times when each contract started and when it finnished. Isn't that enough?

"Yes but even though you show these contracts, you could have left before the time was up"

"But here is my last salary statement and the date on it agrees with the date on my final contract surely that is enough?

"Afraid not we need a proper statement of when you left and the reason for leaving"

Then we got down to the serious business of what my qualifications are and what kind of job I would be looking for.

"I see you have a M. Sc. in microbiology is that what you want to persue?

"Not really. I have not done wet lab work for the past 15 years. I have been involved in Bioinformatics and would like a job in that area.

"Bio what?

"Bioinformatics... it is a field that you use computers to work with DNA and Protein sequence data."

"So you are a Biochemist?"

"No I am not a biochemist"

The lady then scans thought he job opening at and says

"Sorry we don't have anything listed under Bioinformatics"

"So there are no jobs for bioinformaticians?"

"I don't know since I don't know what bioinformatics is"

I take my life in my hands and ask her to open up the EBI website and to go to the SRS system. I explain about databases and DNA sequences and I even get her to display a PORIN molecule from the PDB database. I get her to view it with the MSDAstexViewer. The java window pops up and I get her to rotate the molecule and to view it from different angles.

"That is the kind of stuff that someone involved in bioinformatics would do. Does it make any more sence now?

"Not really... it looks very specialised, and perhaps not many people would be looking for skills like that?"

"So I have skills that nobody can use?"

"Well I will make a note on your records that you are specialised in bio... biowhatdoyoucallit"

"What types of jobs do you have then?"

"We have plenty of jobs in the cleaning sector."

Yep it may just come around to that, that I am over qualified for any job in Finland and I should take up a job as a cleaner. Not very confidence building.

"Can I ask you about E301?"

"We can't help you with that. That is KELA business."

"So what is the relationship between you and KELA?

"We give them a "statement" and then they decide wheather to pay you unemployment benifit or not"

"Well they want a E301 certificate and my previous employer says they can't give one and it is not relevant. I worked in the UK but was paid from EMBL which is based in Heidelburg Germany"

Her eyes glaze over. This is too much information for her. The Bioinformatician was a hard concept to grasp, an internationl organisation that has agreements with the British government, and does not pay tax is something she has never heard of. It sounds unreal. Bioinformatics is unbelievable, but this EMBL/EBI deal is a thousand times more difficult to understand.

Obviously the government offices are not briefed or equiped to handle such complicated cases. All they want is a E301 and they will be happy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


So I go to Kela and fill in the forms trying to get unemployment benifit. Here is the sad news.
  • If you belong to some union you could get 70% of you last wage.
  • but that is if you have made contributions for 10 months.
  • I only worked for 7 months so I would not get anything anyway.
  • The basic daily rate that you could get is 24 euros per day.
  • But you need to have been gainfully employed for the past 24 months.
  • You need evidence that you have paid taxes by getting an E301 declaration.
  • I have until the 10/10/2004 to get one.
  • I worked in the UK for 9 years before coming to Finland.
  • My salary was payed by EMBL in Germany.
  • I worked for EBI in the UK.
  • This is difficult for KELA to understand.
  • I contact EMBL and ask for a E301
  • They say it is not relevant, and I should just show my salary statements.
  • I don' t think KELA will be impressed. They need a E301
  • KELA has no guidlines for someone who has worked for an international organisation.
  • Tomorrow I go to the employment exchange for an interview.
It feels like I have fallen between stools, and nobody knows quite how to handle my situation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Did you ever wonder how an arch like this could be made. Well here is the method. Now get out there and build some arches

For more amazing arches go to Andy Goldsworthy Portfolio

Canada 3 - Finland 2

Drove downtown to get into the Sports Academy to watch the final of the ice hockey world cup. It started at 2:00 AM. I got there at 1:15. The queue to the upstairs section was enormous so I went to the downstairs line since it was shorter. Only as people came out of the door did they let new people in. I got to the front of the queue.

"Can't you let me in?"

"Sorry no space you will have to wait"

A group of "professional" hockey players barged to the front of the queue, their spokesman wanted a word with the doorman. I peered through the glass and the spokesman was shaking the hand of the doorman and pressing some Euro notes into his hand. In a second about 14 "professionals" were let in.

"How come they got in before me? I have been waiting here for nearly an hour"


I finally got inside and started a conversation with a Finn who had studied in Hull. He knew all about Kingston Communications. A short stocky bloke about a foot shorter than the both of us comes up and offers us a Gin drink each. We accept.

"Do you know each other?"

"No we only came here for the match"

"Are you sure you don't know each other. You are talking english, and seem to be very familiar with each other"

"No we have never met before"

"Are you hetro?"

"Excuse me?"

"Are you homo then?"

He was edging closer so the toes of his shoes were touching mine, and his beer belly was rubbing against the knuckles of the hand I was holding the bottle in. Involuntarily I pulled my hand from my pocket, and showed him my wedding rings and told him I was married. I think that upset him. There was a nasty curl to his lip and a piggy squint in his eyes.

I expect he was intent on some gay bashing and was looking to pick a fight, but the display of the wedding rings sort of screwed with his plan. From the look in his eye it was apparent that he did not like to be thwarted, not by a hetro or a homo. As soon as he turned his back and moved away to put his bottle down on the counter. I was gone. I disappeared. I'm a lover not a fighter. I'm built for speed.

I managed to persude the bouncer to let me go upstairs, and there I took some pictures and reactions to the match. There was great excitement and also great disappointment. Finland were always coming from behind. Killer goals from Canada at the beginning of the 1st and 3rd rounds brought gasps of dismay from the crowd. The second Finnish goal was magnificent and brought the crowd to their feet and gave them hope, but in the end it was not enough. More photos can be found in my Photolog

I crawled into bed at 5:00 in the morning, and decided I am not a night person.

It is too dangerous and too expensive. Some people took it hard and some people were more relaxed about the defeat.

What match???