Wednesday, 29 December 2004

I am happy to be home for New Year's break. I shall be doing nothing but channel surf daytime TV, go out in the mid afternoon for coffee with my friends, drink and walk around the city center at night, catch up with old friends, eat, eat, sleep, eat, sleep. The picture above shows our ATD (or all-terrain dog, also known as an Askal, mongrel, or mixed breed). Her name is "Queenie" and she is the alpha Bitch in the family (the next one being my spoiled niece). Ever since the death of our Alpha Being-slash-Cat "Benetton" a year ago, "Queenie" ascended to the throne and lives regally. She sleeps inside our cramped house and wakes my mom up late at night to do a 10 minute walk around the perimeter and/or make poopoo before coming back inside to resume her sleep. She was brought up well by our cat Benneton as like the cat, Queenie will not eat bread (pan de sal) unless it has a cheese/savory filling. She has given birth fives times and despite her mixed lineage, our dog has better breeding than any of the members of the Philippine congress.

Tuesday, 28 December 2004

Bruneiyuki (3)

After saying earlier how I felt at home with the tropical heat, a mere three hours under the midday sun quickly reminded me how I did hate the humidity and how heavy I felt now that I've soaked my shirt in sweat. It was time to take shelter. Bandar Seri has one big shopping complex next to the Mosque (I had wanted to enter the Mosque but it was time for prayers already) but I had no intention of actually shopping and like most just went in for the airconditioning but I did find a 28cm Tefal fry pan on sale and I quickly snapped it for my mom. I did have a go at the gold/jewelry market but it was not that impressive. Brunei is a very conservative Islamic country and I drank my coffe while listening to passages from the Koran. It was in English and surprisingly the reader was a female. I've read some Suras from the Koran ages ago and it was nice to be reaquainted. Plus, the reader gave a short commentary after each passage. I went back to the airport and was happy to find that shower facilities were available! Hurray! I took a long shower, enjoying the cold water and then it was time to take the two hour flight to Manila.....

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Gasoline is ridicously cheap in Brunei. If I had wanted to, I could have taken the boat all the way to Sabah, Indonesia. It was a first time experience for me to see a muddy river coalescing with the South China Sea. One could clearly see the demarcation line. The surrounding tropical rainforest is also very lush as far as I could see. What disappointed me was that the area around the Royal Palace (Istana Nurul Iman) and the palace itself is closed to the public except for only three days a year. My closest glimpse of it from the boat is shown above with the golden Islamic dome towering above the forest canopy. It is the largest Royal Palace in the world (designed by the Filipino Architect Leandro Locsin who mixed Malay and Islamic lines for this Palace in contrast to his Brutalistic masterpieces in Manila) and it has got more bling-bling than Buckingham Palace..light switches in gold for starters, diamond encrusted door knobs perhaps....extravagance beyond P.Diddy's means....

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I am in the tropics again! Coming out of Brunei airport to feel the warm air lustily french kiss your skin was oddly relaxing. I am nearly home but I had 8 hours to spare in Brunei. So I took a cab to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan where I ate some mean Indonesian rendang and Halo-halo while admiring the dome of the Omar Saifuddin Mosque (shown in the picture). There are many Filipinos in Brunei and I was tempted to eat at Jollibee (the famous Filipino equivalent to McDonald's, and much better) but decided not to because there were other fares to try. It was hard for me to pick up the language (Bahasa) although I did try to mention the essential greetings of "Selamat". It was hard to shift from Tagalog to English because I couldn't pick out who was Pinoy from the locals (we Malays have the same features). After lunch I went to the waterfront and haggled for the price of rent for a boat with an outboard motor to explore the famous stilt houses of Kampung Ayer. The water despite being muddy did not stink at all and I had a nice time zooming across the water to see the colourful houses, the simple way of life, and the many mosques of Bandar Seri Begawan.

Monday, 27 December 2004

Homecoming. 13 months in Oxford and I'm coming home! 13 stressful months! After a chaotic Boxing Day spent at Bicester Village to get some good bargains (Technical Helly Hansen shirts 80% off...hurray) I was so eager to come home that I arrived at Heathrow first in line for check-in!! I had a layover in Dubai but I was too knackered to even bother doing some window-shopping as I know I can get ukay-ukay bargains anyway in Baguio. I did stop to worship the 20g of Saffron in a gold box which astounded me 2 years ago when I first stopped here. I made a mental note to buy kilos of Saffron to bring back to England to put some pizzaz in my paella and arroz caldo. Indeed, Magellan had to go around the world just looking for spices and I look forward to eating tons of home-cooked 'spicy' meals.

Saturday, 25 December 2004

Merry Christmas. My good friend Naila invited me for Christmas Dinner at her place at Mansfield college. Dinner was great Algerian cuisine. While walking back home, my path was illuminated by a very full moon.

Friday, 24 December 2004

Christmas Eve Meal

I spent three days with my aunt cocooned in her seaside flat in southern England before rendesvouzing with my lawyer-friend Edna in London for a Japanese lunch while the rest of the materialistic world was doing its last minute shopping (really crazy crowd!). I got back to Oxford on the last bus for Christmas eve and found myself home alone. I was too lazy to cook anything, and there was nothing in the cupboard or fridge becuase all of us were going away for the break but I found a can of Ligo sardines and sotanghon. So in five minutes, Viola! My Christmas eve dinner, simple yet filling. I look forward to coming home to Baguio where I will have a proper belated Noche Buena....

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

My Crazy 2004 List..........because it's the end of the year

And so we near the end of two-oh-oh-four. And we can't let it end without the customary year-end list! And so here it is - my 2004 in pictures........(taken with my ever reliable 2Megapixel off-the-shelf, low tech but reliable Konica camera)...

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1. Homecoming Capitulo Uno. "Once you cross those gates you are lost" said a Czech acquaintance when I remarked on how small the city of Toledo is after looking at its city map. How could I ever be lost I said to myself! First of all, I have a Jason Bourne-like talent of memorizing maps in 3 minutes flat, and more importantly this was my homecoming. I expected the city to embrace a long lost son and for me to indulge in its many surprises. I had high expectations, the city would ravish me and I would make love to it - its art, its smell, its food, its life. (Of course the real reason I am a Toledo is that my paternal Indio ancestors probably just randomly picked it from Claveria's "Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos"...but then again Nashville de Toledo has a nice ring to it and it's also the reason why people speak to me in Spanish instinctively when I introduce myself despite my Tsekwa-looks). Built by the Iberians before falling to the Romans in 192BC, Toledo was then conquered by the Barbarians and became a Visigothic capital; it was a sanctuary for the 'tres culturas' - the Jews, the Moors, and the Christians (co-existing peacefully before the Catholics became greedy); it was capital of Espana till the 16th century; and now a place where the tourists and exchange students far outnumber the locals. Yet, it retains its small-world charm and laid back atmosphere. I arrived at midday with a very warm welcome from the sun (30 degrees!) and an immaculately blue sky. And there it was, Toletum - the city that bears my name. Perched on a hill, protected on three sides by a gorge and the Rio Tagus, on the land side fortified by double stone walls, with the imposing Alcazar standing watch, the inner city can be accessed by 9 grand gates. My "home" was across the river on a hill with a great view of the city, an 11th Century castle converted into a hostal, Castillo San Servando. I attacked the city with the energy of a raging bull. My Czech friend was right, wandering across the city is very disorientating and confusing. The narrow sidestreets are maze-like. Yet, this is one of the best traits of the city, a mathematician would love this place because there are many ways to get from point A to B and it is in getting lost in the city that I came across the best surprises. I have many funny stories about the people I met (the crazy bar owner, the "mob" boss, the swordsmith, the nun, the young drunk college sorority sisters in every state of undress imaginable, and more); the food I ate (mazapan, chicharon); and the art I saw (El Greco,the Cathedral, Goya, Caravaggio, Ribera) in Toledo (I must also mention that I got in to many places for free because of my apelyido) but the most enduring memory is me drinking Ginebra under the gaze of the Alcazar with a full moon above amidst a sea of beautiful people drinking, dancing, and laughing till the wee hours of the morning. Of course how I got to that state is another story...........(soon). For the meantime, my top 30 pictures of 2004 begins with the picture above. On the top left of the picture is the Castle I called home and me showing off by sitting precariously on top of the wall of Puente Alcantara.)

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2. La Solea. I meant to stay an hour then move on to the next live gig. I stayed for 5 hours till the early morning. In a small, smoke filled room, with walls bearing pictures of the great gitanos and guitaristas I met some very very interesting people and listened to the most powerful songs of love and love lost permeated with shouts of 'Ole' from an entranced crowd. Two future Carnegie hall headliners bought me a drink, "Antonio Banderas" came and dragged me to sit next to the performing gitanos, an old man encouraged me to sing, and I got a mini-lecture from the nephew of a gitano legend on the finer points of Flamenco. Hemingway was right when he said 'No one sleeps in Madrid until they have killed the night" and drinking cerveza and watching the gitano way of storytelling at La Solea is one of the best ways of passing the night.

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3. The Real Deal. Why go to Disneyland when you can read the book that inspired the movie so to speak? It's got a moat, a throne room, a garden, quirky turrets, and lots of winding staircases, and a dungeon, and secret passages that lead to the river. Best of all, it has a great view of the Castillan plain and the city it was meant to protect. Watching the sun go down from the tower, I waited to do battle with the evil sorcerer to set free my princess....(never mind that both are figments of my imagination)...such is the magic that a theme park can never give me.

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4. Summer Capital. There is nothing to do in Aranjuez - but to eat yourself silly, take in the local summer dessert of strawberries, and take a siesta in the acres and acres of parks. And for local gossip....the Palacio Real here was built to satisfy the requirements of the nymphomaniac Reina Isabel II. I like the fact that being from another summer capital of a spanish colony, strawberries are everywhere here. A truly laid back town, I even got time to watch Vin Diesel's XXX dubbed in Spanish and other things on spanish tv I dare not mention.....(like a two channels of palm reading!).

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5. Plateresque y Churrigueresque. I like Salamanca because it is just like Oxford or Cambridge. A small university town with a vibrant night life....but unlike Oxbridge, the weather here is much much better. Legend has it that if you spot the frog unaided on the plateresque facade of the Universidad Civil you will not only have luck but marriage as well. I spotted this frog unaided.......Salamanca is home to many great Cathedrals and the sexiest square this side of Europe. Walking the city at night is highly recommended.........

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6. Freedom.. When was the last time you were this free? Enjoying a soda without a care in the world. Stress is nothing but a self-inflicted burden on the backs of grown-ups.

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7. Water is Life. A word from the wise-Always bring lots of water when walking in a dry and arid area....This has got to be the best tasting water I have ever tried especially since I was parched from 2 hours of hiking with me forgetting to refill my water tank. The things we take for granted......

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8. Avila by Moonlight.Walking around, on, and under the 11th Century walls of Avila and its 88 towers at sunset, midnight, and early morning - watching the colours change I was wondering what it must have been like to defend or put this city under siege (although it was never sieged). I timed my arrival to coincide with the sunset and watched the city from the hills across the Rio Adaja. Magic. The locals are very friendly and I met some very amusing characters including the old man who overslept his siesta and had no idea what day it was. I ate at a restaurant near the Puerta Alcazar where were it not for the good sopa castellana would have walked out becuase they were playing music by Air Supply (in fact in any other city, I definitely would have walked out)! It kinda ruined the experience but thank God the city as a whole was very interesting enough for me to overlook this minor annoyance. I met some very pretty and wonderful girls here, including a group practicing a dance involving flaming mini-cauldrons being swung about, to the night manager in my hostal who was watching Friends dubbed in spanish. Boy, did I make every excuse just to sequester her attention. But the girl who put my heart into arrythmia I met in a cafe on the Plaza de Santa Teresa. In mangled spanish, I told her how much more beautiful the city was because of her. And I meant it. The rest of this heart-wrenching story is better left untold........

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9. Food. There's this small restaurant in a small sidestreet near the Jewish Quarter of Venice where the locals go for food (La Casa Mia). For two days, I occupied the same spot and pigged out on Adriatic seafood and authentic pasta. From the corner table, I had the chance to observe people coming and going, and how eating and the sharing of food are one of those more important social activities. Around the dining table, ties are rekindled, friendships are made, hearts are broken, news is passed, and life is enjoyed..........That is why I am learning to be at least a satisfactory cook. I may not pull in the crowds because of my voice (bad singer), my looks (ugly), or my opinions (none), but I can lure them to share a few laughs by arresting their noses and stomachs....

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10. Art. When I am not climbing mountains, I like to spend my lazy afternoons in museums, old churches, secondhand bookshops, and galleries. I don't know why, but these places have a calming effect on me. Plus, the musuem coffeshops serve some of the most underrated coffee. And the girls who hang out in Museums are generally prettier...Above is a picture of a sunflower in Laline and Anne's home in Hertogenbosch, my homage to the impressionist sunflowers. I can't paint so I let my camera try to half-decently capture the art around us. I missed the Museo del Prado this year despite being oh so close (I was with a masterpiece....). If I could describe 2004 as an art piece, it would be 'La Siesta' by Van Gogh, (a picture of which I hustled from a small shop in Madrid) because I didn't seem to have enough sleep this year (including a 74 hour stretch of sleep deprivation). Notable exhibits this year which I saw and recommend are the El Grecos in Toledo (including his tomb which the caretaker nun was more than happy to show's not actually a tomb, his coffin is just laid out on a riser), the Van Gogh Collection in Amsterdam (best viewed under the influence of.....), Raphael - From Urbino to Rome at the National Gallery (80 works by one of the teenage mutant ninja turtles in one roof), the Sudan Exhibit at the Brit Museum (a different way of making pyramids), and the Book of the Dead in Turin (it's so cool, it's like a cookbook for mummification and ensuring that the dearly departed go to the right place). Lest, I be accused of pretentiousness, I would like to declare that art isn't confined to museums, it is everywhere......especially on the faces of my friends.

Monday, 20 December 2004

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11. Orcs. While I was doing that most Spanish of events-the Paseo (or walking in the city center to see and to be seen) I came across this band of mini-Orcs clambering up the walls of Avila. Perhaps the most enduring image of this year's autumn vacation. The innocence of children, their insatiable curiosity, their appetite for overcoming small challenges, and their high pitched shrieks of joy over the simplest of things are very good reminders that we shouldn't let the stress of the rat race take over our lives.......Deep inside, I kinda wished the kids could actually tear down the wall......would have been fun........

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12. Poetry on the walls. Everwhere in Leiden, be it the sidewalk, the walls, or the benches, great poems can be found from the great bard to the freeflowing verse of ee cummings. Something to distract your gaze away from the pretty Dutch girls once in a while. Leiden is my kind of town - small, picturesque, the main antiquities museum of the Netherlands containing a large Egyptian collection (including the complete Nubian temple of Teffeh), a thriving cafe life full of people my age, one of the best ukay-ukay shops, and just 30 minutes from the beaches and dunes of Noordwijk.

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13. Colour. I've seen a lot of churches, none as psychedelic as the Madrid Cathedral (Nuestra Senora de la Almudena). God must have a smile on his face. The cathedral architecture is also interesting, outside it is neoclassical while inside it is neogothic. My new friends Katlin and Jalila were so excited so go inside because of the fairy tale wedding that happened here recently......incidentally, later that day following Britney's lead, I asked Jalila to marry me but we both backed out after realizing that there was no quickie divorce in Spain....oh well, we just got caught in the moment......

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14. A Pure Smile from a Pure Soul.. Need I say more?

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15. Moonrise. From my room in Menaggio in Northern Italy I witnessed my first ever fullmoon rise. First, it was very dark then the moon rose slowly from behind the mountains and its reflection gave the lake a yellow glow. It made the beer I was drinking sweeter. I walked around town under the moonlight and slept on the banks of the lake watching the moon and the stars.

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16. Sunset. I love sunsets. I watched in amazed silence as the colours of Segovia throbbed from brown to orange to violet as the sun receded in the horizon. Segovia is one of those historically and culturally interesting places - a 2000 year old freestanding aqueduct, its quirky Alcatraz, the Knights Templar church (Vera Cruz) which at one point held a splinter from the cross of the crucifixion (and is slowly having an increase in tourist visits from the fans of Dan Brown who are in their search for the holy grail), the large Cathedral (the last Gothic Cathedral in Europe), and a museum devoted to the paranormal and the dark arts (displaying a head of an alleged vampire among other cool things). I walked the city till the wee hours of the morning when the streets are deserted but the city becomes prettier with the lights giving the aqueduct and the cathedral a dreamy glow.

Sunday, 19 December 2004

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17. Easter on top of a Mountain. I did a solo hike up a small mountain (~6500ft) on Easter and had the peak to myself. I had lunch on the top with great views of the Materhorn on one side, Northern Italy on the other, and Lake Como directly below. Stepping on virgin snow is a feeling like no other....especially when the snow is thawing and actually sliding there is some element of danger. I intended to cross the ridge in the picture to the other mountain peak but I lost to to the mountain (Sob). I only made it halfway as it was already mid-afternoon and I wasn't wearing any snow shoes. My ego told me to proceed despite not having anymore food (I knew I could do it and come back on time) but I gave it up for a next time and just retraced my steps to the first peak and enjoyed a lazy afternoon watching the other hikers reach the top. It is a great feeling being on a mountain - it's just you and the sky and you know that from all that climbing, you've actually toned your butt.......

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18. Can I get you a drink? Taking shelter from the early morning rain, I found myself inside Jay's Juice in Haarlemmerstraat. Jay is just one of those rare optimistic dudes who don't make you feel bad because your life is shit compared to his. Instead, his love for life is just infectious. I forgot if he spoke with a Jamaican accent but it feels that way in my memory (maybe because I already inhaled some prizewinning sativa from 8am!!!) and he was just shooting loads of 'Smile my friend, enjoy life'..etc...He showed me his prized plantation of wheat grass and even gave me a free taste. It tastes like grass (duh..) but it's light and one of the more refreshing drinks I've tasted. Legend has it that if you ask, he can lace your juice with a small amount of Viagra (for those who need it...I certainly don't). When I got to his shop, he was busy inventing new concoctions based on the fresh produce of the day. My claim to fame is that I helped create one drink- Scandanivian Delight. He just said 'When you look at a Scandanivian girl, what fruit do you think of?'. I said 'Er, Mango?'. Today, I still wonder why, maybe because Scandanivian girls have a sunny smile?.....After an hour of just feeling the joy in his small shop I went walking in the rain and it didn't matter that I was soaked....Life is too short not to be enjoyed......

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19. Lakes and Mountains. I grew up in the Cordilleras and spending most of the year in a place as flat as middle England induces a claustrophobic effect on me. I am not a technical climber but there is something about being on a mountain (or at least within sight of one) - the air is thin and you are at the mercy of the unpredictable weather conditions at high altitudes. More importantly, you can stand on a cliff or ridge and watch how long it takes for your spit or wee to reach the bottom. I also like lakes and lakes get prettier when viewed from a high vantage point - it's as if a giant made a great deluge of a pee, and the lake was the puddle that formed.......
(Picture shows the Swiss side of Lake Lugano)

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20. The Black Hole. There is one main reason why for old trains, you cannot use the loos while the train is not running. This is all the more obvious in the Inter-regionale train from Milan to Turin. I was amused that the crapper was just a hole that led straight to the tracks. I pity the technicians who maintain the tracks. Lest I be accused of a sweeping generalisation, I must say that not all Italian carriages are like this....some are very modern.....but this is the best loo experience I've had. Just imagine how girls (and men in the act of crapping) must feel when using this bowl-they can sing along to Better Midler's "Wind beneath my Wings" fact if my calculations are correct, if the train is travelling at the correct speed and the wind is moving in the right direction, there is no need for tissue to wipe away the dripping or leftover bits..........

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21. Coffee. The pursuit of a good cup of coffee has preoccupied every fabric of my being, whether I just want to relax, or I want a dose of caffeine to keep me from sleeping, to just for the heck of it. When I was young, me and my mum would manually harvest our arabica coffee beans (for which I was stung many times by that insect we call sinit-sinit), thresh the outer shell, dry it (which at high altitude where we live takes a reaaaaally long time), thresh it again, and finally roast it. The roasting bit is always the best part as the smell is something of a hallucinogenic (at least to me). There are only a few places in the world which has not been infected by the dreadful Starbucks and its clones. I had some great coffee experiences this year and met a lot of really interesting people in small mom and pop cafes. But, my best coffee experience (at least my search for a good place to drink one) this year was at Cafe de Jaren which has a waterfront deck and a hangout for the beautiful and engaging University of Amsterdam students. I was navigating the back streets on my way to this Cafe when a petty thief approached me trying to sell his recently stolen bicycle (for 10 euros). I said I was not interested. I find it weird that despite this, I still find Amsterdam the safest big city in the world. So I engaged the thief in conversation. He had many things to sell - a car stereo with wires hanging out, a necklace....but at the end all he wanted was to score some dough to buy a spliff. I said I didn't have a spliff but if I had I would have given him one. I did want to give him a euro so he would go away and then I made a deal - teach me how to pick a dutch bicycle lock then I'll buy him a smoke. And so he did, and so now I know how to defeat that most imposing of bicycle locks. He also gave me a rare old coin as a memento and told me that if I needed anything in Amsterdam, he was the one to talk to.....And then one might ask, did I ever feel sorry for the ones who lose their bicycles to petty thieves. No. In Amsterdam, you expect your bicycle to be stolen....and then you buy a 'new' one. So there I was after the brief encounter with Amsterdam life, sitting on the deck under a starry night, with my coffee, happy that I had learned a new skill of picking locks. Had I settled for mediocre coffee in the tourist traps, I would not have had these experiences.

Friday, 17 December 2004

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22. The Book of the Dead. I went to Turin and stayed with my friend Licel to see how she's doing (very well methinks judging from her "posh" Corso Trieste digs) and to catch up with the latest gossip. It was fun to see her struggling with the Italian language (I was mean and made no effort to help her while she was marooned in the detergent section of the grocery looking for washing machine powder trying to read in Italian and furiously conversing in sign language with the well-heeled Italian shoppers who thought she was a bit lost)...Turin's most important relic is the Shroud of Turin which we visited. I dragged Licel to see a museum which houses a complete Egyptian Book of the Dead. The Turin collection is the most important outside Cairo and they have some of the best preserved mummies I've seen. Turin is in a state of disarray at the moment as construction is underway for the 2006 Winter Olympics but it is a pretty city with excellent food, beautiful women (including Licel), and some of the most obscenely priced luxury items (which I can't afford, and wouldn't buy anyway if I had the money) ....I probably ate half my body weight, but still maintained my bella figura as Licel and I did miles and miles of walking....(Word of warning: stay away from the fringes of the Stazione Porta Nouva, the hookers look like men...)

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23. Scary Painting. This was in my room in Domaso, a surfing town on the north shore of Lago Como. Totally weird....but then again Domaso is a weird town. Could someone be putting a spell on me or is this some new form of modern art? In any case, this gave me the shivers the first time I entered the room....and then it grows on you....yes a picture that shows a beheading will be fine thank you.....

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24. Rainbows. After a siesta, it's so wonderful to wake up and see a double rainbow. It's a rare event that reminds me of my childhood.

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25. The Bench. Two years ago, I slept on this bench next to "The Little Urchin" in Spui in the freezing cold because I had no place to stay for the night. Back then, I had a totally high junkie share the bench with me to keep both of us warm while he gave me a great history lesson and I had my first brush with Dutch law as 5 (as in FIVE) pretty policewomen straight out of Charlie's Angels approached me and asked me why I was sleeping on the sidewalk. It was good to go back to Amsterdam and see that the bench is still there...ready to provide some respite for the weary traveller. It crossed my mind to sleep on the bench again, hoping the policewomen would come back..........

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26. Verona. Give credit to that man Shakespeare for making Verona a Babe town. The ratio of girls to boys in this small town is probably 1 gazillion to 1. I met some very nice people here: Brooke who is a guitarist for a punk band and looks like Britney who showed the way to the hippest places to eat and drink. She was a pretty girl and we had a starstruck waiter spell her name using chocolate powder on the froth of her capuccino (it would have been sweet except for the fact that the waiter mispelled her name to Brock which is a guy's name and it was creepy because the guy was openly coming on to her despite my and another girl's presence); Mary, a Greek-Aussie who last time I heard of was somewhere in Israel on a whim ("I was on the airport and tossed a thing I know, I was on a plane to Tel-Aviv"); and Mark and Sarah, another adventurous Aussie couple who are on a 1 year travelling honeymoon. We all stayed on an 18th century Villa which would have been really cool except the landlord had a 1 am curfew....and so my search for Juliet was quashed.....because the walls of the villa were 20 feet high and no way was I going to scale that and live to tell this tale. I could only sigh as I sat on the grotto at 2 am looking down at the City......I just hope my Juliet hasn't killed herself...I will return my love.....

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27. The Happy Squirrel. Seriously, how could a cute and furry creature not make it to this list? A rare close-up of Guillermo the squirrel...

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28. Pi. The tombstone of Ludolph Van Ceulen. I stumbled on this fellow in Pieterskerk, Leiden which is a wide gothic cathedral with a wooden ceiling. This fellow calculated pi to 35 decimal places by using polygons having 2^62 sides which during his time was no small feat. It also meant he was a geek (as most mathematicians are anyway....except this guy was also a skilled swordsman). Pieterskerk is also interesting because it acknowledges that it was in Leiden where the Pilgrim fathers stayed before deciding that they couldn't take any more of the filth in Europe and sailing for US of America.....which as we know from the Janet Jackson hoopla is an extremely conservative country...

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29. A Harrier GR7 flying in 'reverse'. I went to Eastbourne to watch an airshow. I do not approve of war, and I like warjets only because I'm an engineer and I appreciate the technology that goes into them. Among other things, I also saw Russian Yakovlev Jets in formation, a Dutch Airforce F-16 breaking the sound barrier, and some crazy English folks swimming in the Channel despite the very cold cold water.......

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30. Taming the "rough" waters of the Isis and the Cherwell. I've been out punting a couple of times and I've fallen into the river only once (thanks to my friend Catherine) although our friend Karen wasn't quite so lucky as she fell head first into the river. Spending the warm summer afternoons being lulled to sleep as the boat gently undulates to the heartbeat of the river is totally relaxing.....especially if you have the DTC girls to do all the rowing.......

Friday, 10 December 2004

My placename at the LSI-DTC Dinner with a tacky blue getaway car I won from that most English Christmas tradition of pulling Crackers

Sunday, 5 December 2004

Robbery!!! An evil pigeon caught in the act of stealing a nut from a squirrel. It happened so quickly-the squirrel was minding his own business when he was suddenly surrounded by these vicious birds of prey and was mugged! These pigeons should be put behind bars!!

I've been feeling down lately and I thought the best way to get over my depression is to bring out the inner child in me. This is me at Hyde Park, dancing as if no one is watching. It was good that my friend Cliff was there to get this snap.