Saturday, 14 November 2009

Taking a sicky

I ended up having to go to hospital yesterday (Friday) and am not feeling on top of the world right now so I have decided to take a little break from this blog. The plan is that I will start posting again in two weeks, if all goes well.


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres) Novmber 11th 2009

The field of poppies

I attended the 11 o' clock service at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres) today, to commemorate Armistice Day. I do not like to be in the "circus" on the road near the Gate so I observed from the old town walls. The following clip shows the field of poppies on the old walls, by the gate, followed by the last post.

The Last Post

The crowd at the town side of the Gate

Part of the parade at the front side of the Menin Gate

The Belgian War Memorial in Ieper

We will remember them


Monday, 9 November 2009

A Soviet hat from Berlin - a show and tell

I was not planning to do another show and tell so soon after the last one but as the 9th of November marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, this one seemed appropriate.

My Soviet Russian military hat

I remember watching the events of the fall of the Berlin wall. It was during my student days and myself and others watched events unfold in the common room of a student hostel. Discussions came to two themes, 1/this was just a glitch in the status quo and the wall and the rest of the iron curtain would be back up in a couple of months, 2/this was it, the start of World War III. We had all been born into the cold war and it was all that we knew, the idea that Soviet Block Communism would come to an end was something that did not even occur to us, at that time. Little would I have guessed that I would be working in the eastern side of Berlin, less than three years later.

I was based in the Netherlands at the time and the organization that I worked for had a small team based in Berlin but they only had four guys there and when the Berlin wall had fallen they taken responsibility for a site in Stahnsdorf, that was badly in need of renovation. Not having the manpower in Berlin, teams where sent from Belgium and the Netherlands to help with the renovations and I was a member of one of those teams. Staying as guests of Her Majesties forces, at Devon house, the Berlin civilian mess, I was to visit Berlin many times, over the next couple of years.

On my first visit, in 1992 the East side of Berlin was still very much as it had been in the Soviet era and the stub of the old wall could still be seen across the road by the Brandenburg Gate. It was there that many stalls had been set up, mostly selling Russian army artifacts, everything from watches to infra red night sights. That is where I purchased this hat. I have since found out that it is an officers hat of the motorized infantry from some time in the late 50's or early 60's. An officer probably made a bit of cash by selling off his old uniform to the traders. I was to visit Berlin a lot in the 90's, both to work and to visit a friend who lives there and I watched as the old East side of the city transformed and became westernized.

This hat now hangs in the spare bedroom where I keep my books my library and is a constant reminder of the cold war days that I grew up in and the changing face of Europe in the post Soviet era.

There is one song that always reminds me of Berlin and that time (and also how pretentious some 80's videos could be) and every time that I think of my visits to Berlin this song starts going through my head.


Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Saturday Curiosity Box - A new blog for the roll - Remembrance Sunday

A new blog for the blog roll

A Flamingo in Utrecht - The blog that followed mine in last weeks World Blog Surf Day event and one that reminds me of the time that I lived in the Netherlands, where this blogger is based.

Remembrance Sunday

Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday The main fund raising event for the The Royal British Legion. To find out more about the appeal click on this link The Royal British Legion - The Poppy Appeal or it is possible to donate direct to the appeal through this link The Royal British Legion - Give to the Poppy Appeal today. The following clip is a compilation of news items outlining the Poppy Appeal and where the money goes.


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A watercolour from Prague - Show and tell

As I said in my last post, I do not get about as much in winter and so I have had to think of one or two other things to post during this chilly season, one of them is "Show and tell". There are probably lots of bloggers doing this or something similar but the one that I stole the idea from was WRITER CRAMPS. Well here is one of my treasured possessions and a little about it.

A watercolour from Prague

It was in 1992 that I first took a trip through central Europe, with two friends. Our first stop was Prague, in what was still then Czechoslovakia. On the first day in the city we came across a watercolour painter in the center of the city selling his wares. Myself and one of my companions took a liking to his paintings and asked his prices. Language was a bit of a barrier but we soon worked out that rather than buying a painting each, we could have three paintings for the price of two, which we did. I really liked this one and only wanted one and so we split our little bundle accordingly.

The thing about this holiday was that it was happening at a time of transition. Communism had crumbled but it ghosts could still be seen in the countries that we visited (especially Poland). I have traveled through central Europe since then but the lingering cold war atmosphere and the feeling of things changing at a supersonic rate have gone and the countries have settled down to work on their growing democracies and westernization. This painting represents the memories of a trip that could never happen again. The memories of this trip are still strong in my mind, they happened in a moment of history, the likes of which we will never see again in the same way. This painting reminds me of what I saw as the world changed on a mammoth scale.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Devils at the Heksestoet and a little word about winter posting

Winter posting

I want this blog to be mostly about happenings, events and things to see in and around Flanders and Belgium other than chocolates, beer and statues of little boys peeing (although these will make the odd appearance). But as the weather gets cooler and the days grow shorter, there is less going on and sometimes I like to snuggle up in the warm at the weekends, after spending the week outside (I am a hands in the dirt horticulturalist) and so I will have less fresh material to post here over the winter, although there will be some current posting. So rather than reducing the regularity of posting, I have some material from the summer that I have saved for winter and I have one or two ideas for posts, in the quieter weeks.

Devils from the Heksenstoet

I was going to post this clip as a special for Halloween but it clashed with World Blog Surf Day, so I am posting it now. It is of the Heksenstoet in Beselare and features the devils that took part in this parade.