Sunday Musings After A Quiet Week

The weather changed this week, and became much nicer. Sunny mornings, warmer temperatures, and a hint of an ‘Indian Summer’. Dry walks with Ollie were a nice bonus.


Ollie started shaking his head yesterday morning, a tell-tale sign of an ear infection starting. Luckily, I still had some antibiotic tablets and ear drops left over from the time when we were told to stop them during a spell when he had been having too many doses. So I started him off on five days of the tablets, with ear-drops in the affected ear. If that doesn’t work, I will have to take him back to the Vet yet again. He is due to have a shampoo and grooming session next Friday, so that should make him feel fresher.


After less than a month in the job, Liz Truss is making a pig’s ear of being the UK Prime Minster. She does not seem to be any better than the buffoon who preceded her, though she is (marginally) less annoying.


Putin seems to be trying to terrify everyone in Europe with threats to explode a ‘tactical’ nuclear device in Ukraine. And because our news media loves to strike fear into the hearts of ordinary people, they are repeating his threat every fifteen minutes on the rolling news channels. They need to look at a map. Russia would endanger its own people, as well as its proxy supporters in Ukraine, and all of its own troops in that country. Not to mention Poland, Belarus, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary. So would Putin really take that chance?

According to the BBC, he certainly would. So now my wife is worried sick about her children and grandchildren.


Otherwise, it has been a remarkably peaceful week, marked only by routine.
I like routine.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable Sunday.


Not Ukraine

When there are photos or videos of civilians and children being bombed and killed in Ukraine, the world is horrified.

‘Horrific’. ‘Inhuman’. ‘Criminal’. ‘War crime’. ‘Unjustified’. Just some of the headlines.

But when Israel attacks Gaza today, bombing civilian targets, killing civilians including children, and terrorising others in their homes, the media is completely silent.

Not a word. Not a single news report so far.

So do Palestinian children not matter? Are they not white enough? Is it because Russia is not bombing them?

Look at the photos, and decide for yourself.

Israel is no better than Russia, but you won’t hear that on the BBC.

Musings On A Chilly Sunday

Since the short ‘False Summer’ recently, the weather has felt more like Autumn again. It is dull and cold this morning, with a promised maximum of 10C. (50F) Hard to imagine June is arriving next week. I doubt I will be needing my new sun hat again for a while.


Although Ukraine continues to ‘drop down’ the news reports here, I read online that the Russians are making progress in South-East Ukraine. The sheer volume of troops and resources at their disposal is finally wearing down Ukrainian resistance. I am beginning to wonder if Zelensky should try to come to some settlement, before his country is quite literally destroyed town by town.


I posted about the school shooting in Texas, then later discovered that the heavily-armed police officers attending and standing around in the car park refused to enter the school because the shooter ‘might fire at them’, or ‘was shooting at them’. That sounds like simple dereliction of duty from where I sit.


I am still not feeeling very insired to post much on my blog. So I appreciate everyone who has read the old posts I have been reblogging.


Ollie is benefiting from the cooler weather. He has a bit more energy, and has also regained a good appetite. He is currently fast asleep next to my desk.


Have a great Sunday. Wherever you live, and whatever you are doing.


Ukraine: Something That Affects Us All

Wherever you live, and whatever you think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is one fact that we all need to be aware of.

The world has just 10 weeks’ worth of wheat stockpiled after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supplies from the “breadbasket of Europe”. The UN has been warned that global wheat inventories have fallen to their lowest level since 2008 as food supplies are rocked by a “one-in-a-generation occurrence”.

A Cheerful Start To The Week: NOT!

I have just seen this story on The Times newspaper website.

Russian state media threatens UK with ‘nuclear tsunami’
In his Sunday evening primetime show, the Channel One anchor Dmitry Kiselyov said a strike by Russia’s Poseidon nuclear underwater drone could turn Britain into a wasteland by drowning the country in a 500-metre tidal wave of radioactive seawater.

“The explosion of this thermonuclear torpedo by Britain’s coastline will cause a gigantic tsunami wave. Having passed over the British Isles, it will turn whatever might be left of them into a radioactive wasteland”.

This is the monster undersea bomb they are talking about using.

Apparently, this is because Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were both asserting that Russia should be ‘completely driven out of Ukraine’, including The Crimea.

Given the size of the device, it seems like the Republic of Ireland will suffer the same fate.

And I never did learn to swim…

The Last Sunday Musings For April

Well it is May next week, and we finally got some sunnier and warmer weather by yesterday. Depite being one of the official driest months of April ever, it left us feeling cold enough to have to put the heating on by Thursday. Fingers crossed that May will be warmer, and stay dry too.


May also marks three months since I applied to renew my driving licence, which in case anyone was wondering, has still not arrived.
(It’s not complusory for you to wonder, so don’t worry if you haven’t been)


We finally got Ollie an appointment at the groomer, but not until the 12th of May. By then his claws will be rather too long, and he will be smelling like a musty old carpet.
At least his groomer recovered from her bout of Covid-19, which we were pleased to hear.


Political news here continues to astound me. On Saturday, a Conservative MP was forced to resign after it was revealed he had been watching pornography on his phone during a parliamentary session in the House of Commons. His unbelievable confession was that he was trying to access a Tractor website, (he also has a farm, as if his MP salary is not enough) and inadvertantly typed in the URL for a popular porn site instead. But despite that ‘mistake’, he watched the porn anyway.

Twice. The second time during a meeting in a parliamentary office.

As well as the outrage that this buffoon thought so little of his role that he watched porn in parliament, I would like to know why he thought it would have been okay if he had been looking at new tractors instead. He is being paid over £84,000 ($106,000) a year to represent his voters, plus a huge expense account, subsidised food and alcohol, and energy bills paid.
It would be shameful, if the despicable man had any shame to start with.


Gloomy news that Russia intends to have a general mobilisation of all reservists and conscripts, following the annual May ‘Victory Parade’ in Red Square. And Putin has cancer, so is going in for surgery. If it turns out he has nothing to live for, that could be very bad news for Europe.


It is getting harder to stay chirpy, but I hope everyone has an enjoyable and peaceful Sunday.


Ukraine: The Historical Timeline

Since the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has rightly become headline news and a major talking point. Before February, it is fair to argue that many people around the world could not have even pointed out the location of that country on a global map, but because of the situation now, it seems clear that almost every country except India, China, and Belarus is on the side of Ukraine. I thought it was time to look at the history, and perhaps put current events in some context. I will use short points to illustrate it.

*Known as Kievan Rus until the 12th century AD, Ukraine later came under control of the Polish/Lithuanian empire from 1569 until 1686. It was then divided, with half ceded to Russia. After 1795, modern day Ukraine was ruled equally between the Austrian Empire and Russia.

*Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the long civil war that followed, Ukraine eventually became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, in 1922. In the early 1930s, up to five million people starved to death in Ukraine following a great famine. Some people believe that this was a deliberate act by the central government in Moscow.

*When Germany invaded Ukraine in 1941, Ukrainian nationalists fought against both Germany and the Soviet Union, hoping to achieve independence. Many other Ukrainians collaborated openly with the Nazis, even forming regiments in the Waffen SS, part of the German army. They saw the Germans as liberators from Soviet control. Some joined the pro-German Auxiliary Police, others served willingly as guards in Concentration Camps, including Treblinka. In September 1941, 34,000 Jews were executed in just two days outside Kiev, at the Babi Yar ravine. They were shot by German SS and SD troops, assisted by Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and antsemitic volunteers. Other Ukrainians fought against the Germans by serving in the Soviet Red Army.

*From the end of WW2 until 1991, Ukraine remained as part of the Soviet Union, with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic having some self-government, as well as its own place on the United Nations Security Council. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from central control to become part of the Ukrainian SSR.

*After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Ukraine declared independence in 1991, with 90% of the voters in the country voting for independence. (Only around 50% in Crimea)

*In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine, precipitating a war in the Donbass Region that was ongoing (with some Russian support) until the recent Russian invasion. In 2021, pro-Russian Russian-language TV channels were banned in Ukraine. Also in 2021, NATO announced that Ukraine could become a member if it met certain criteria, but not as long as it was still at war with separatists in the Donbass region, and involved in disputes with Russia over the territory of Crimea.

*The Far Right, Neo-Nazi Azov battalions are militia groups that have fought against separatists in the Donbass Region since 2014. They were formed by Andriy Biletsky, an ultra-nationalist political figure who previously led groups including the openly neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly (SNA), which preached an ideology of racial purity for Ukraine. They were formally integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard, in 2014. It is their presence on the battlefield that gave Putin his flimsy ‘justification’ for “ridding Ukraine of Nazis”.

Some Silent Films

One more 2013 reblog that not many of you have seen. This time it is an appreciation of silent films, before the introduction of ‘talkies’.


In these days of special effects, green screen, 3-D, and so much more, it is easy to forget the roots of Cinema. They were soundless, save for piano accompaniment, and in black and white. Yet they had magic, mastery, and innovation, all of which can still be as fresh today, as when they captivated audiences in the early 20th Century. Take a trip back in time, and feel free to gasp with wonder.

Pandora’s Box. The marvellous Louise Brooks stars in this 1929 German film. She left America to become a star in Europe, and her trademark severe bobbed hair, and incredible beauty, were well-received by European audiences. The story is somewhat scandalous, given the time, and concerns prostitution, sugar-daddies, and very loose morals. Brooks plays Lulu, a captivating dancer, beguiling rich men with her looks. They will do almost anything to win her favours, and she will do what…

View original post 762 more words

Architectural admiration (8)

There hasn’t been a post in this series since February. I made a lot of notes for some more, but decided that they were all too familiar. Yes I had seen and admired them, but so have so many others. I needed to find some of the more unusual ones again, and that was proving to be more challenging. These posts are very time-consuming, involving lots of research, to ensure accuracy. This one alone has taken most of a day. On this occasion, I have included three mammoth architectural icons that I have never seen. This diversion from my usual discipline is inspired by the thought that I almost certainly never will see them, but some of you may well get the chance. I have separated them at the end of the post, for clarity.

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh, Morocco.

Very rarely, you visit a place where you would actually like to live. Perhaps not always in the country where you find it, but certainly in the actual place itself. Being able to own it, then move it to the perfect location, is a rewarding fantasy. French artist Jaques Majorelle created just such a place, in Marrakesh, Morocco, in the years between the two world wars. The modernist house and buildings are surrounded by acres of lush gardens, courtyards and fountains, and fine examples of cactus, and other exotic plants. His paintings are displayed inside, and much of the area is painted with the most vibrant shade of cobalt blue, of his own concoction. So distinctive, it has become known as ‘Majorelle Blue.’ Tiles and mosaics are used extensively, and the design is cleverly intended to make the best use of angles of sight, and to allow light to fall just where it is needed.

The house was bought by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in 1980, and when he died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the gardens. I can understand why he would have wanted that. There is also a museum of Berber art and textiles founded by Saint Laurent, and like the gardens, open to the public. If you ever visit that city, be sure not to miss this treat for the senses.

Eltham Palace, South London, UK.

Eltham is a sprawling suburb of south-east London, on the border with the county of Kent. Driving along its High Street, with the usual mix of estate agents, ‘phone shops, and chain stores, you would hardly be aware of the treasure that lies just behind it. This is definitely a house that I would love to live in, for so many reasons. Built as a moated manor house in 1296 for the Bishop of Durham, it was given over to the crown as a gift to Edward II, in 1305.

This house has such a connection with the history of the British Royal Family, and that of our country too, I am at a loss to understand why it is almost unknown to so many of us. It was one of the primary Royal residences for over two hundred years, and is the place where Henry VIII grew into manhood. However, life in Tudor England was all about being close to the River Thames, the main artery of travel, and because of this, Eltham fell out of use, with the palace at Greenwich coming into favour, due to its riverside location. After the English Civil War, and the restoration of Charles II, it was little more than a ruin, and was bequeathed by the King to John Shaw. All that remained was the Great Hall, and some of the original walls, and Shaw’s family held on to the property in this condition, until the end of the 19th Century.

In 1933, Stephen Courtauld bought the house. He was part of the rich industrial family that were famous art collectors, and founders of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He built the current house, incorporating the restored Great Hall. The interior is an Art Deco wonderland, of untouched stylistic features and furniture from the mid-1930s, with a circular entrance hall/reception room that has an amazing ceiling, and beautiful wood-panelled walls. The gardens are delightful too, and since the building was taken over by English Heritage in 1992, it has been open to the public. This is a real gem, tucked away just a short train ride from Central London to Eltham Station, or easily accessible by car, using the main A2 or A20 roads from London to the coast. I urge you to make the effort.

The Gherkin, St Mary Axe, London, UK.

During the IRA bombing campaign against London, a huge bomb devastated the area in the City around the Baltic Exchange building, in 1992. Despite demands to retain the facade of the damaged building, it was declared unsafe, and soon demolished. There were many ideas put forward to replace it, with Sir Norman Foster, the distinguished British architect, gaining acceptance for his design, which was built from 2001, and officially opened in 2004.

The end result divided opinion, and it was soon nicknamed The Gherkin, relating to the shape of the small pickled cucumber. I always thought that it looked more like a bullet, and the retro-futuristic style appealed to me a great deal, like a rocket from the 1960s. Despite the circular appearance, all the glass is flat, and designed to create a pattern on the building. It is home to the Swiss Re insurance company, and a dozen or more other international companies. It also has restaurants, and a very impressive entrance lobby. On the top floor, which is the fortieth, there is a private dining room and bar for tenant’s use only, with impressive views. This building manages to appear smaller than it actually is, within the confines of that area in the congested city. But it is imposing, and can be seen from over twenty miles away.

Like my previous choice, Eltham Palace, it has attracted the attention of many film-makers, so you may well have seen it on screen.

Rochester Castle, Rochester, Kent, UK.

Built in the 11th Century, this imposing castle dominated the River Medway, and the main road from London. Despite the ravages of time, the imposing keep remains, and still looks formidable to this day. During its heyday, it was fought over many times, but saw little action after 1381, when it was all but destroyed during the famous Peasants’ Revolt.

During the late Victorian Age, it was opened as a park around the ruins, and it was not until relatively modern times that it was restored to its former glory by English Heritage, who now own the site. It is open to the public as an attraction, and continues to be well attended, and admired. Listed as a Grade 1 building of historical importance, it may be better known to anyone who has seen the film ‘Ironclad’ (2011), which was filmed in and around the castle.

These next examples are those that I have never seen, and for different reasons, probably never will. My admiration for them is no less diminished by this fact.

Ghengis Khan Equestrian Statue, Mongolia.

I have not seen this of course. It was built in 2008, funded by a Mongolian businessman who had made his fortune after the country’s independence. Determined to keep the name of his famous ancestor alive, he paid to have this statue erected, overlooking the steppes from where Ghengis began his conquest of the known world.

I saw it on TV recently, when Joanna Lumley visited it, on her Trans-Siberian tour. It may seem garish on first glance, but you have to consider how important a figure that Genghis Khan was to modern day inhabitants of Mongolia. His conquests exceeded those of Alexander The Great, and anything that the Roman Empire achieved.

During the Soviet years, he was all but erased from history, so it is fitting that such an edifice be erected to his memory. Some sixty miles from the large city of Ulan Bhator, this magnificent statue stands looking over the boundless plains of Mongolia. Visitors can access the viewing platform, on the top of the horse’s head, and gaze over plains unchanged since Ghengis rode across them. Simply marvellous.

The Motherland Calls, Volgograd, Russia.

When this amazing memorial to the battle of Stalingrad was opened in 1967, it was claimed to be the largest statue in the world. Volgograd is the modern name for Stalingrad, but the city is the same one that saw the terrible battle during the Second World war. A battle where the Germans were defeated, and indisputably changed the whole tide of the war, in favour of the allies.

The statue symbolises ‘Mother Russia’, sword in her hand, defending her nation from the invader. Despite numerous trips to the Soviet Union, I never got to see this, to my great regret.

Krak Des Chavaliers, , near Homs, Syria.

The recent tragic war in Syria has put the fate of this once magnificent castle in doubt. Perhaps the best preserved Medieval castle in the entire world, the Krak was originally developed by the order of the Knights Hospitaller in 1142, during the Crusades. They held it until it fell to the Saracens, in 1271. The huge castle complex is located in a dry desert area, and this helped to preserve the wonderful architecture over the centuries. At one time, it contained a garrison of over 2,000 knights, who used it to control a vast area of the country.

Until Syrian independence, the castle was controlled by the French in modern times, and they restored the castle to its former glory. Since 2011, the castle has been fought over by the Syrian rebels and government, suffering air attacks, and shelling. More recently, it has also been the site of fighting against Islamic State. So, it’s future is in doubt, and even if my circumstances changed, it is unlikely that I will ever see it.

So that’s my latest selection, including a few I have never seen. It may well be my last, as I have no wish to go over many other buildings and sites that so many others have seen. I hope that you can visit some, and find others to admire.

Architectural admiration (7)

Here is another selection in this series. It takes in a vast area, from London, to Beijing. I hope that you find something to interest you. Please let me know, in the comments.

Battersea Power Station, Battersea, London.

This Art Deco monolithic structure was built on the south bank of the river Thames, during the 1930s.
The signature chimneys have dominated the skyline in that area ever since. It is actually two power stations in one, and remains as the largest brick-built building in Europe. It has been a part of my life, and the London skyline, obviously for as long as I can remember, and its imposing presence in south-west London, has attracted film-makers and architectural admirers ever since it was opened. Although it has not been used as a power station since 1983, it has a listed exterior, and many developers have fought for the rights to make it into something. From a concert venue, to a luxury housing development, many planning applications have been submitted. The most recent to gain approval includes a hotel, luxury flats, and a shopping centre. Luckily, the facade will be retained, so Londoners will be able to continue to enjoy this marvellous structure in their city.

GUM, Moscow, Russian Federation.

I first encountered this amazing shopping complex during the late 1970s. This was a department store on the grand scale, built during the latter part of the 19th century. By the time of the Russian Revolution, it contained more than 1,000 individual shops, trading under one fabulous glass roof. The different levels were connected by walkways, and even after it was nationalised, it was still a wonder to behold. Since Russia became more commercialised, it has only 200 stores remaining; most being over-priced, and with goods out of the reach of ordinary people. Nonetheless, it remains an imposing edifice in Red Square, and a wonderful building in its own right.

The Ascension Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

When I visited Kazakhstan in the late 1980s, Alma-Ata, as it was then known, was the capital. It has since been replaced by Astana, after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. At the time of my trip, there wasn’t a great deal to be seen there, for a tourist. The Kazakh people were unusual, to be sure, as many were descendants of the Mongols. We were mainly there as a staging point on a trip around Central Asia. However, they were exceptionally proud of one particular building, and took us on an excursion to view it. In Panfilov Park, stood one of the largest all-wooden structures in the world, the Zenkov Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Of The Ascension. It was very impressive indeed. Built in 1903 as part of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is a majestic wooden structure, which even today, is the second tallest wooden structure still standing. We didn’t get to go inside, as at the time, it was not being used as a church. It remains in my memory as one of many outstanding buildings we saw during that trip.,_Almaty

The Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic.

This iconic structure dates from 1357, and is a landmark of this famous Czech city. Dominated by large watch-towers, it is a pedestrian only bridge now, but once carried traffic. No trip to that city is complete without taking a stroll across this famous bridge, which spans the Viatva River. In the 18th Century, a series of thirty statues were erected, lining both sides of the bridge. Although now mostly replicas, they still give the bridge a unique style, which is not replicated anywhere else. It is rich in history, having endured wars and floods, and played a significant part in the Thirty Years War, when the Swedish army fought there, attempting to take the city. If you ever journey to Prague, it is unlikely that you will not go to see this magical bridge, and take your own walk across it.

Beehive Kiln, Walmer Road, London W.11, England.

The area known as Notting Hill in London, is now a very trendy place. Made popular by Hollywood films, and used as the location for many TV shows, it has become fashionable over the last few decades. At one time, it was a poverty-stricken district, just on the western fringes of an expanding London, during the 18th and 19th centuries. This was an area where the main industry was the firing of pottery, to make cheap kitchen items, and in particular, bricks. The soil contained thick deposits of London Clay, ideal for this purpose. The area was considered dangerous, due to the slum dwellings and rough inhabitants, and it even gets a mention from Dickens, writing about the place in 1850. Today, only one thing remains to give a clue to the area’s past. The Beehive Kiln, with a memorial plaque, stands as the last reminder of the industrial heritage of this part of London. I used to drive past it every day, and I never ceased to enjoy the quirky building, at the end of a residential street.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China.

Situated in a lovely park in the south of Beijing, this is a complex of temples, dominated by the iconic pagoda-style circular hall. The whole area is incredibly impressive, and well-worth the effort to find it, if you are ever in that city. It was constructed in the early 14th century, around the same time that the famous Forbidden City was being built further north. It has understandably been adopted as a UN World Heritage Site, and is one of the foremost destinations for Chinese visitors to the city. For a small admission fee, you also get to wander around the vast peaceful park, and see locals enjoying the outdoors. It is a very different tourist experience, as well as being one of the best preserved examples of this style of architecture anywhere. I have added a Chinese link, with English text.

Aigues-Mortes, Petite Camargue, France.

This is a fascinating walled town on the salt marshes of the Petite Camargue, completely enclosed by ancient fortifications. Believed to have been founded as a settlement in Roman times, it is in an area known for salt production. Once on the coast, it is now inland, though still surrounded by marshes, and susceptible to flooding. It was developed into its present form during the 13th and 14th centuries, when existing towers were joined by walls, making the whole town secure inside what was, in effect, a large castle. Wandering around there in the 1980s, it felt as if time had stood still. Only the souvenir shops and modern bars gave any idea of the passing of time. If you ever find yourself in this area, south-west of Arles, be sure to make time to visit this historical gem.

Seven more memories of my travels, places I have visited and admired. I hope that you discover something new, click the links, and enjoy the photos and the additional information.