Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Twilight Zone

Tales of horror

Once you know the story behind it, this has got to be one of the most gruesome pictures ever seen.
Mitja, a 9 year old German boy, disappeared on the first day he was allowed by his mother to come home from school alone. His body was found a couple of days later. He had been raped and strangled. This CCTV picture shows Mitja sitting next to a know paedophile in a tram on his journey home. They are both smiling and speaking to each other. The paedophile has gone missing and everything points to the conclusion that he was Mitja's murderer. If this is not enough to send shivers down the spine of any parent I don't know what is.

Yesterday, a little 8 year old Portuguese girl arrived in the UK to join her father, a Portuguese man who was starting a new life in Ipswich. She was probably thrilled by the prospects of a new house, new friends, new place. It was late when her plane landed in Luton. At 1 a.m. the car where she and her father were travelling after leaving the airport collided with a deer which suddenly ran into the motorway. Both father and daughter died instantly.

100 years ago

Midland Railway d'Angleterre

I wonder if they already had problems with rail track maintenance on this line back then...

Monday, February 26, 2007

New shoes

There's a great song that's just come ("New Shoes", by Paolo Nutini) out which goes like this:

Hey, I put some new shoes on,
and suddenly everything is right,
I said, hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody's smiling,
it so inviting,
Oh, short on money,
but long on time,
slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine,
and I'm running late,
and I don't need an excuse,
'cause I'm wearing my brand new shoes.

It's so ordinary but just so true, isn't it? Putting on a new pair of shoes, getting a new hair cut or wearing new clothes can lift your mood just enough for you to make peace with the world (as far as shoes are concerned, however, this peace will probably tend to be very short lived, as new footwear invariably means sore, bruised feet after a few hours...).

I wonder if hanging new curtains at home will lift my spirits in quite the same manner [daft thought, I know...]. I guess I'll find out in 8 weeks' time.

Another day gone by...

Sunday, February 25, 2007


"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." - Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)

"In the height of summer, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible winter." - Claudia W.(1967 - ????)

Winter colours

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vintage Prints

To London by Sleeper
LMS Express & Cunard Liner

Some of the best art produced in the 20th century is in the form of prints. These particular ones are from a time when travelling was a pleasure only few could afford...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Old family photos

Dads Family

Dad (in the middle) with his mother, father, brother and sister in the Summer of 1943. Only Dad and his brother survived the 1940's...
Dad Brother and Sister 1943
Dad (in the middle) with his brother and sister in the Summer of 1943.

Dad August 1943
Dad in the Summer of 1943. This picture always reminds me of Saint-Exupery's Little Prince...

Scheming friendships

It's kind of hard to admit it but right now my views on friendship are pretty much in consonance with Mariana's...

Human Fabric

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
Ill be watching you

-- The Police --

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Soul's Superior instants

Salvador Dalí- Leda Atomica - 1949

The Soul's Superior instants
Occur to Her -- alone --
When friend -- and Earth's occasion
Have infinite withdrawn --

Or She -- Herself -- ascended
To too remote a Height
For lower Recognition
Than Her Omnipotent --

This Mortal Abolition
Is seldom -- but as fair
As Apparition -- subject
To Autocratic Air --

Eternity's disclosure
To favorites -- a few --
Of the Colossal substance
Of Immortality

poem by
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Night on another corner of the world

Night on another corner of the world

The way forward

France, show us the way!
Vote Ségolène Royal!

About Ségolène's performance on TV on Monday: this article pretty much sums it up.

W. H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was born 100 years ago today in York. This most brilliant of 20th century English poets presented us with what is perhaps the most poignant poem ever written about the pain of love severed by death.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

To W.H. Auden

Putin's troubles

Excellent comment by Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian.

"The west may yet come to regret its bullying of Russia. Putin has no interest in a new cold war and is struggling to modernise his economy. Yet he is rebuffed and insulted."

Spring is in the air

Spring bouquet

The Unicef study on child well-being

Last week Unicef published a study of childhood across 21 of the world's industrialised countries (the OECD countries). "An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries" was based on the analysis of forty indicators pertaining to the years 2000-2003 which were grouped into six different dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviours and risks, and young people’s own subjective sense of well-being.
The league table obtained from the average of all these indicators show the UK to be the worst country in the OECD to be a child in!
These findings were met by the British with shock and strong reactions, as reported in this BBC news piece, this article in the Guardian. and this comment in the Observer. After all New Labour has been in power since 1997... Yet another headache for Gordon Brown.

CHILD WELL-BEING TABLE (Overall assessment)

1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada
13. Greece
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States
21. United Kingdom

Other key points at-a-glance here.

Click on study cover to access the Unicef PDF file

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shrove Tuesday(*), Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday

(*) The name ‘Shrove’ comes from the archaic English word ‘to shrive’, which means to confess or hear confessions of sin, a practice that was customary in the church on this day.

It's Pancake Day again. Lent, marked by penitence and fast, starts tomorrow.

Forty days of fasting and of regretting my wrong doings... could I manage it? Nope. I really don't think so. Especially not the fasting bit of it... Life is too full of sacrifices and penitence already. Not eating is not as likely to earn me a ticket to heaven as it is to take me on a journey through hell.

Anyway, I wonder if this year there'll be any pancake races in Olney?

The Olney Pancake Race

Since 1445, a pancake race has been run in the town every Pancake Day. Tradition records that back in 1445, on Shrove Tuesday the "Shriving Bell" rang out to signal the start of the Shriving church service. On hearing the bell a local housewife, who had been busy cooking pancakes in anticipation of the beginning of Lent, ran to the church, frying pan still in hand, clad in apron and headscarf. The women of Olney recreate this race every Shrove Tuesday (better known outside of the United Kingdom as "Mardi Gras" or Fat Tuesday) by running from the market place to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The traditional prize is a kiss from the verger. In modern times, Olney competes with the town of Liberal, Kansas in the United States for the fastest time in either town and winner of the "International Pancake Race". This competition has been run every year since 1950.

Night on another corner of the world

The setting of my childhood

The setting of my childhood
This is the setting of my childhood and that of my mother before me. My grandmother still lives in the same pombaline house she and my grandfather rented in Rua do Século (Lisbon, Portugal) when they were married in 1939. My mother was born here and it was here that I lived until I was 13 (and yet for another year when I was 18). Things looked considerably better when I was a child than they do now. There was no graffiti, no vandalism and almost no cars. Looking at these pictures, it is hard to believe that this road was actually dual carriage until the late 1970's.

Links for historical research

Monday, February 19, 2007

O soave fanciulla

Can any opera love duet surpass this one? Plácido Domingo and Monserrat Caballé sing O soave fanciulla in Puccini's La Bohème with the London Philarmonic Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti in a historic 1974 recording.

O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso
di mite circonfuso alba lunar
in te, vivo ravviso il sogno
ch'io vorrei sempre sognar!
Ah! tu sol comandi, amor!...
Fremon già nell'anima
le dolcezze estreme,
nel bacio freme amor!
Oh! come dolci scendono
le sue lusinghe al core...
tu sol comandi, amore!...
No, per pietà!
Sei mia!
V'aspettan gli amici...
Già mi mandi via?
Vorrei dir... ma non oso...

Se venissi con voi?
Che?... Mimì?
Sarebbe così dolce restar qui.
C'è freddo fuori.
Vi starò vicina!...
E al ritorno?
Dammi il braccio, mia piccina.
Obbedisco, signor!
Che m'ami di'...
Io t'amo!
Amore! Amor! Amor

Back to the daily grind

So we're back. Back to this other life we lead. It's never been so complicated to be both here and there as it is now. Why do our loyalties lay so painfully dispersed?

My city on a rainy day

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Breaking the ice
Breaking the Ice - Composition for Valentine's Day 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

On the move

On the move

Flying to Portugal with the kids for the midterm break. Be back in a week.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Looking out

Snow is falling

Back to [*almost*] normal

Schools are open again. It's the last day before midterm, so the kids weren't that sad about it. The snow family kept vigil to our house all night and still looks very dignified out on the lawn (only two carrot noses fell but they're back in place already). The roads are icy but driving Ana to school was a piece of cake.
I'll have to start packing for tomorrow. The washing machine broke down two days ago and the engineer won't come before next Monday, which is too late for me to get all the laundry done before going. I've been hand washing some things but dirty clothes seem to be endowed with spontaneous generation around here. I'm actually planning on getting some laundry done at Mum's! That, along with the fact that I'm going alone with the girls, almost gives this entire trip an adolescent flavour...
I've also been stocking the freezer with plenty of food for hubby. Still have to clean and cook a lot today, though. Why is a woman's job never done?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snoweee's family

Snoweee's family


New colors for the garden with matching table set (cushions and tablecloth).


No school for the girls today. No airports, no motorways, no trains either. England and Wales have come to a halt because of the snow. It started falling at around 5 am and it's still going strong. Loads of fun in the garden, however...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Ten centimeters of snow are on tomorrow's weather menu. For now it's "just" -6º C outside and there's a lot of frost firmly sealing car doors shut. The girls just can't wait for next week's midterm break: being with their grandparents and aunts in sunny Portugal is their idea of paradise. Let's hope we don't get snowed in...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Winter Scene

Near the church of St. Mary in Shenley Church End.


Good morning

It's freezing outside (-4ºC)! I took forever to defrost the car to take Ana to school and my poor early bloomers in the garden aren't in very good health...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Divided Kingdom

I found mild similarities between Rupert Thomson's Divided Kingdom and some of Jose Saramago's dystopian novels. But whereas Saramago's Blindness is a supreme literary and sociological masterpiece (it, alone, is justification enough for his Nobel Prize), Thomson's novel never makes it past the amusing and entertaining mark. Some of the considerations and situations are excellent but the ending is pretty disappointing.
All in all, I guess it's worth the read if you're into dystopian novels.

Papageno! Papagena!

Adequate for Valentine's Day, which is one week from now, is Papageno and Papagena's mating song from The Magic Flute, now playing on the iPod.

The times are a'changing...

Clara is at the movies with her two best friends and Ana is preparing dinner...

English is insane

Check out the number of different pronunciations of -ough in the following sentence:

A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.

It's insane!

Unexpected guest...

...at the door.
If only for a few amusing moments...

Goldcrest - Regulus regulus
The goldcrest is the UK's smallest songbird and is dull green above and buff white below with a distinctive orange or yellow crown stripe. It is a widespread species, closely associated with coniferous forest. In winter it will join with flocks of tits and other woodland species. In the UK it occurs widely save for in treeless areas such as on the Fens and in northern Scotland. Its population has suffered declines recently, hence its inclusion on the Amber List. It suffers in very cold winters and the recent successive mild winters are a cause for optimism.

New neighbors

As of last week we have new front door neighbors. They're a very nice Japanese couple, Chisato and Toshiaki. We got them flowers and they baked us banana bread. Too bad they don't have kids to play with Ana and Clara.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Another day went by

Lovely weather today. Went on a local exploration trip after lunch and found a delightful spot for a picnic when it's not so cold outside. Near a Japanese Buddhist temple with its own Zen Garden...

This clock has stopped

Food techonology

Clara brought home a bowl of fruit salad she made at school on Friday. She was very proud of having prepared it herself, using knife, chopping board and all, and the truth is that it was quite delicious.

Both my girls have now proven to be apt to dish up some yummy munchies for their aging parents, even if it's only when they're "inspired" to do so (which is not too often, I'm afraid).

Ana is more of an experimental cook: she likes to come up with unusual ingredient combinations for her recipes and some of them actually turn out to be quite a success, like her scones with cherries or her apricot and walnut bread, very much praised by her food technology teacher. Routine cooking and preparations bore her (in fact, any type of routine seems to bother her...).

Clara, on the other hand and perhaps due to her tender 6 years of age, loves to help out on the basics, like washing, pealing and chopping fruits and vegetables, beating the eggs, measuring ingredients, seasoning salads and arranging the food in attractive displays.

It's great to see them enjoying themselves in the kitchen. I believe that basic nutritional knowledge and proper cooking play a fundamental role on maintaining a healthy relationship with food throughout life and I'm very glad that their schools are helping me out on this one.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday snacks

I love etymology

Paleoweltschmerz - word imported from German into English and which refers to the theory that dinosaurs became extinct through sheer boredom with the world.

Jubilee - from the Hebrew yobhel, meaning trumpet. Originally all slaves were emancipated every 50 years in a ceremony proclaimed by trumpets. This 50-year cycle eventually became a jubilee.

Slogan - derived from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, literally meaning army call or an Irish battle cry.

Bizarre - derived from the Basque word bizar, meaning beard. Bearded Spanish soldiers fighting in France made a strange impression on the locals, who used the word bizar to show how odd these soldiers looked. Bizarre was then "borrowed" from French into English and a word that originally meant beard came to mean strange.

Penguin - from the Welsh pen gwyn, meaning white head. This was originally used by Welsh sailors for the great auk, a now extinct bird similar to the penguin found in Newfoundland that had a white spot in front of each eye.

-- Source "Much Ado About English" by Richard Watson Todd

Friday, February 02, 2007

Talking to myself

Le rouge et le noir

"If you don't have anything nice to say,
don't say anything at all."

[Instead just post a picture]

When the spell is over and nice things can be said again,
you'll be the first to know about it...


I'm All Ears

I'm all ears...

The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
Fools said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Framed moon

Framed Moon

A walk at dusk
A Walk at Dusk