My avatar and why I chose it

Returning to DNMT after a hectic family weekend, I find myself the Featured Blogger. Thank you for the kind words , Bearsy. The avatar is a euro-sceptic symbol which I found on the internet.  Originally I was all in favour of the EU and regretted that  (another)  stupid Labour government had not accepted the original invitation  to Britain to become a founding member. This would have deprived de Gaulle of the pleasure of vetoing our subsequent application for membership and would  have made our relationship with the EU completely different.

Now, however,  I am completely disillusioned with the current EU set-up. There is corruption and malpractice – why have the auditors not signed off an the accounts for over 10 years now? There is a lack of democracy, with unelected commissioners (frequently dregs like Kinnock) imposing rules and regulations.  These same rules and regulations seem to be disregarded by several countries with impunity. Britain plays fair and where does it get us?

I am delighted that Chancellor Merkel is now putting the interests of her own country first. I am pleased that several rather wide cracks are appearing in the surface of both the EU and the eurozone.  A former Dutch commissioner is saying that it is ludicrous to have 27 commissioners; 12 would be sufficient in his considered opinion. A parliament that allows a dubious character like Daniel Cohn-Bendit to abuse a guest speaker such as Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, a man with more experience and integrity than most of the MEPs put together, is a disgrace.  Eurosceptic? Moi? Yes, indeed.

Another century

In the bank today I suddenly came face to face with a walking bin-liner. It really is a most unpleasant experience to see only two eyes staring at you from behind a wall of black.  Should the bank even have let her in? Handy disguise for a bank robber, I’d have thought.

Then I remembered that on Monday during our day trip to Morocco I’d have quite welcomed something that spared me from the persistent attentions of all the street hawkers. I wouldn’t have gone for the all-enveloping niqab though. It was disappointing that nothing much seemed to have improved since our last visit to Morocco five years ago. The guide was not interested in showing us anything like the royal palace in Tetouan but just wanted to take us into the medina where he could lead us to a carpet shop. Apart from the fresh food everything on sale in the market was ‘tat’ and the clothes stalls looked as if some one had hijacked an Oxfam collection.

If asylum seekers/illegal immigrants can scrape up thousands to pay people -traffickers, they would do better to put the money towards a decent education for themselves. How can they expect to find a decent job in a western country without it?  This culture still looked light years behind. Western tourists are for fleecing and thus the whole western world is supposed to hand out baksheesh.

For Boadicea

Talking about my career as a teacher last night on MyT reminded me that I had never got round to writing about the world of archives, for which I originally trained. During my first degree in modern languages I became interested in medieval French language and literature. Old and Middle High German never held the same attraction. I then moved on to study medieval Latin and paleography and diplomatic – that is old handwriting styles and the different forms of documents issued by different authorities.

A lot of such knowledge is only useful if you end up working in the Public Record Office or the Vatican archives or somewhere equally high powered. Local record offices concentrate on local parish records, local landowners and local government records. Not all vicars can be persuaded to deposit the parish records, though they usually regret that if their church burns down and everything in the parish chest is reduced to ashes.  These are the sort of records most useful to genealogists, though if your ancestors got transported to the colonies for a felony, then the Sessions records are also good.

London has a large number of record offices, from the Public Record Office, under the aegis of the Master of the Rolls, to the India Office archives, which have some amazing artefacts as well as documents. It is the number of parishes in London that causes the most problems for family historians. There were over 100 parishes in the City of London alone at one point. So anyone arriving to look for an ancestor with a fairly common name really had to know in which parish he/she lived. I was always on the look-out for a name like Ichabod Shufflebottom that would stand out from the rest, but never found one.

Archivists  have to learn how to deal with damaged documents and to prioritise repair work. The repairer is a very skilled craftsman and does wonderful work, but needs to be told which document needs treatment first. As there is always a long back-log of of collections waiting to be catalogued and indexed, so there is always a long list of documents waiting for repair.

Archives, like libraries, always come bottom of any list of projects on which money should be spent, but are definitely in the top ten when it comes to cuts. Shortsighted? Of course, until everything is either on microfiche or transcribed. But then the records are all very British – not “multi-culti” enough, I expect.

Red in beak and claw

Leaving the apartment complex this afternoon we found a seagull on the pavement with a badly damaged wing. While we were wondering what had happened to it,  the answer flew past us to perch on a fence nearby. A bird of prey and a very attractive one too. Some research on Wiki suggests it might have been a merlin. They winter in North Africa and it may have been starting on its journey back north to its breeding grounds, stopping off in Gibraltar for a quick snack. The seagull was bigger than its attacker, but had obviously been hit in mid-flight. There was nothing to be done but to move on and let nature take its course. I was not looking forward to walking past the scene on our return, but there was no trace of anything. Could that merlin have moved its prey elsewhere to feed?

The rain in Spain

The weather has been awful in Gibraltar for most of this past week with a very rough sea  which forced those ships anchored off-shore to move farther out. The odd thing is that there was almost no wind here, so obviously somewhere else in the Med was getting a good blow. There was also some torrential rain, which the ladies at the bus stop assured me “non es normalo”. When the sunshine returned a couple of days ago we could see that there was snow on some of the Spanish hills much closer than the Sierra Nevada.

Yesterday’s visit to Europa Point was disappointing, apart from the bus ride which gave us a look over the western edge and the harbour to Algeciras, and the view over to North Africa.

Too many tatty breezeblock buildings labelled MOD property.  No attempt to make the area attractive for tourists of whom there was a steady stream in sight-seeing minibuses.

I don’t believe it!

Why on earth does Australia interrupt a major international sporting event, leaving two of the world’s top tennis players sitting on the sidelines for 10 minutes, getting cold and stiffening up, for a firework display? I’m referring to the match between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open tennis tournament.  A little reorganisation next time perhaps?

I’m now wondering what is in store for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Now there is to be no refueling of cars  during the race, perhaps a coffee break to refuel the drivers?

First impressions of Gibraltar

The view from our window.

The realisation when one lands in Gibraltar that the whole place is only about six square kilometres and that a road has to be closed when a plane is landing or taking off because it goes across the runway is surprising.  The first impression is of a bigger town, though of course it’s hard to judge properly with that enormous rock in the middle.

Gibraltarians speak English and Llanito, which is apparently so close to the Spanish of Andalucia that it takes a native Andalasusian to tell the difference. Relations with Spain are now more relaxed than they were. But if a passenger aircraft cannot land at Gibraltar because of weather conditions, the departing passengers go through all the formalities here and are then bussed to Malaga airport where they are decanted straight into the aircraft. Arriving passengers are bussed straight off the tarmac at Malaga with baggage to go through all the formalities here.  This is an improvement on the previous arrangement whereby the plane had to fly on to Tangier and sit on the tarmac until permission was obtained for it to land at Malaga.

We experienced one of the bad weather conditions on Friday when a thick mist called the Levanter, settled on the top of the Rock lowering the temperature considerably. Whether it was that that drove some of the apes down to sea-level, I don’t know, but I had my first meeting with one of them, sitting on a wall by the roadside chewing  something and totally uninterested in passing humans.