In 1936, the German Chancellor and Dictator, Adolf Hitler, hosted the Berlin Olympics in order to promote his Government at home and its “ideals” of racial supremacy. He tried to ban the participation of black people and Jews and he arrested all of the gypsies in the Berlin area and placed them into a concentration camp for the duration. Only in the face of overwhelming international condemnation were black people and Jews allowed to attend.
In February 2014, Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics to promote his Government at home and as a distraction to domestic unrest and economic difficulties. Ahead of and during the event there was overwhelming international condemnation against Putin’s “ideals” and the abuse of lesbians, gays and transgender people in Russia.
On the 11th March 1938 the Austrian Nazi Party sponsored by Adolf Hitler, seized power in Austria and cancelled a planned referendum which was likely to result in a vote to maintain Austria’s autonomy in the face of German aggression. As a result, all power was effectively transferred to Germany and Austria was annexed.
On 27th February 2014 the Supreme Council of Crimea, part of the sovereign state of the Ukraine, and sponsored by Vladimir Putin called for a referendum on the status of Crimea within the country following calls for a closer relationship with Russia.
Following the annexation of Austria in 1938, Adolf Hitler complained about the status and condition of the ethnic Germans and German-speaking people in the Sudetenland, then part of Czechoslovakia. The Munich Agreement of 30th September was signed by the major European powers in an attempt to avoid escalation. The Sudetenland was effectively ceded to Germany in October 1938, and in March 1939 Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Part of that sovereign state was annexed by Germany. The Slovak part declared independence but, in reality, was little more than a German satellite. Other parts were ceded to Bohemia and Moravia, while the Ukraine but was annexed by Hungary.
On 3rd September 1939, following Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Britain declared war on Germany. This was the start of the second World War, a war in which over 60 million people are thought to have died.
In February 2014, Russia massed 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and pro-Russian militia seized control of the Crimean peninsular. On 1st March, the Russian Parliament authorised Vladimir Putin to use force in the Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking population.
So, what happens next…….?
David Silvester, a UKIP Councillor – and, therefore, a mad, racist, bigot, and homophobic member of CAMRA – blamed the recent bad weather in the UK on the Government’s policy on the legalisation of gay marriage.
Well, he may well be a fool but this weather is certainly Biblical in its proportions. We have had the rain. We have had the floods. We have had the wind. We have had the cold. We have had Charlotte Hawkins (@SkyCharlotte) spending her mornings standing up to the top of her Hunters in some Thames Valley flood water interviewing stock brokers who have rescued their over-pampered Chihuahuas and politicians in high-visibility jackets and hard hats. At least Nigel Farage (who was once the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz) had the good sense to do his Somerset Levels interviews from the inside of country pub.
Now, I’m all for a bit of a windswept Hawkins in a morning but this is going on and on and on…and on. We have had the wettest January in over 100 years. It has been Stormaggedon.
I pity the poor people in the South West who have been flooded since Christmas. I am sorry for the thousands of homes that are still without electricity. And at least the politicians have begun to take things seriously now that the Thames Barrier has been deployed.
But yesterday it began to get personal. The a North West of England was hit by hurricane force winds and torrential rain. The roof of Crewe Station (my home from home) blew off, bringing down power lines and a halt to the West Coast railway. Restaurants and pubs in Sandbach were closed due to falling masonry, and trees were falling in the country lanes around and about faster than at a lumberjack competition.
It has been cold. Our old house (1855) is draughty and chilly at the best of times but it has been proper cold. The cat has camped out under the radiator on the landing to keep warm and we can’t wait until he deigns to join us in the lounge so we can warm our hands on him.
And, the pyjamas have been deployed.
Enough of this weather already. Stay safe out there everyone – there is more to come at the weekend….
Now what have I learnt in my time in Australia? I have learnt that the Australians know how to party! Big time. Darling Harbour in Sydney has, over the last two months, played host to Santa Fest, New Year, the Sydney Festival, Australia Day and Chinese New Year. The flags on the bridge have been up and down more times than a couple of kangaroos in the mating season.
I have. Even hugely impressed with the efficiency with which the authorities clean the streets and change the flags. I have seen domestic disputes, physical fights, people on camels, people on stilts, ubiquitous skateboarders, ubiquitous bikini-clad lovelies (men and women – Aussie men seem to like to put on a bikini), and many a beach bum and super-model.
And I have watched it all from the balcony of my apartment at the Aquarium/Wildlife Centre/Madame Tussaud’s (I resisted the temptation of going to visit the wax dummy special exhibition of One Direction).
The photograph depicts my daytime view of “The Corner Of Shame” showing the back entrance into the Wildlife Centre. The night-time view has been much more “interesting”.
At times of major events such as NYE, Australia Day and the like Darling Harbour is fenced off and becomes an “alcohol free” zone, meaning that no one is allowed to take their own booze/grog/liquor in. The entry points are manned by event security who search every bag. The area is patrolled by volunteer rangers who look for those who are lost or worse for wear. And the area is heavily policed.
The Corner Of Shame is just 50 yards away from one such entrance.
I have seen groups of girls entering the corner of shame to neck a litre bottle of vodka before passing through security. I have seen groups of blokes snorting lines of coke. I have seen revellers hide booze in the bushes so that they can come in and out of the security check at ease. I have seen hobos searching the bushes in search of (and finding) the same concealed booze. I have seen men and women use the steps as a toilet. And I have seen gay men getting far too up close and personal.
I think the Sydney police need to move their security check 50 yards or come and sit with me on my balcony.
I think the wildlife centre staff should use the front entrance or invest in a big tub of Dettol.
There are certain internationally accepted conventions for the use of colour. For example, in general the world accepts that, with regard to traffic lights, red means stop, amber (or yellow) means caution, and green means go. Motorway (autoroute) road signs are generally blue and those on trunk roads are typically green. In general, a diesel pump nozzle is black (or blue), while an unleaded one is green. Maps also tend to colour things consistently – water is blue, land is green, and towns and cities are a dirty, grey/brown.
Or at least I think they are. I am colour-blind. It is a genetic anomaly passed down through the female line in the family. So, I don’t always see colours in the same way as others. Sometimes I don’t see colours at all. I live in a beige world. I am styled by my wife. Otherwise I would be dressed mostly in beige. I don’t look good in beige. Few people do.
But, when I can see colours I know when they are right and when they are wrong. And, I can tell you that the Australian convention for the colour-coding of crisps (“chips” if you were born in a less-edification part of the world) is just so wrong.
Any UK Midlander would have been weened on Walkers Crisps. And, as such we know that red means Ready Salted, blue means Cheese and Onion (the king of crisps), green means Salt and Vinegar, etc.
Down here, blue is Ready Salted (or “Original” as they like to call it). Wrong. Green is Chicken. Very wrong. As a rule of thumb I try to resist all contact with green chicken. And, Cheese and Onion is a pinkish purple. Very, very wrong and only possible in the gay capital of the Southern Hemisphere. This is the colour we use for Prawn Cocktail flavour back home.
Why do so many young, slim, attractive Asian girls find so many portly, middle-aged, balding or ginger-haired, white Caucasian guys so attractive……….?
My world is literally falling apart. Well not quite. Not under the old definition of the word (literally) but definitely under the new one updated in the Oxford (the oldest, the best UK university) Dictionary.
Why? Because I am suffering major battery loss on my iPhone. I’m losing about 10% every half hour. My phone is dying. My connection with the outside world is dying. I am risking the loss of mobile connectivity. No email. No Facebook. No blogosphere. Is there anyone out there?
Things have got so bad that I have an appointment with Geek Central – the Sydney CBD Apple technical support team in about an hour and a half.
I expect to be humiliated and ridiculed by a spotty fourteen year old who will sneer at my old 4s (see, I can talk the techie stuff) and berate me for not putting my umbrella up when instructed to do so by the iCloud or something. But, I’ve seen Terminator and am wary of the iCloud….
I am constantly checking my battery percentage. It’s down to less than 20%. I feel like Desmond in Lost, watching the countdown and pressing that bloody button. And we all know how that ended.
Actually, we probably don’t all know how that ended. Many, like me, will have got severely frustrated by the lack of conclusion as each series came to an end, leaving viewers feeling frustrated and cheated in the same way as those who paid good money to see the Hobbit at the cinema. The jury is still out on Homeland as I haven’t quite finished series 3 but there must be a conclusion soon….
I digress. I have sought refuge in the only place I know which has a reliable, fast, free wi-fi. Fortunately it is a bar and I’m hoping my schooner of Fat Yak will take the edge off things as I anxiously attempt to back up the phone before my teenage Geek Terrorist wipes me from history.
Backup estimated time one hour. Walk to Apple Shop 15 minutes. Appointment now in 1 hour 15. It’s gonna be close. Have another beer. Battery percentage now at 10%.
My iPhone is my connection to the wider world. Especially while I am several thousands of miles and multiple time zones away from my nearest and dearest. I don’t know what I will do if
I recently blogged that one of the loneliest places on the planet was the restaurant of a third-rate hotel in fourth-rate Dudley. This morning I discovered that there is at least one lonelier place. It is in the largest city in Australasia on the other side of that planet. And, ironically, I am not alone in this. Having failed to get back off to sleep after phoning C at 7am (my time) I got myself together and took myself in search of brunch. I thought I would try out the bacon and eggs at the Blue Fish (hmmmm…..but there isn’t a Blue Pig and Chicken…..). It was a restaurant that C and I had visited a couple of times – for fish/seafood – and had been recommended by a colleague.
There were not many people there when I arrived and I sat on my own and surveyed my fellow diners. There were four. They were all Brits (the fact that they were all wearing shorts and had legs that were far paler than their face and arms was an absolute give away) who were avoiding eye contact and trying to lose themselves in their paperbacks, Kindles, iPads and phones. They all looked a little lost, a little sad, a little homesick, and lonely.
As was I. I was lonely despite the fact that C was texting me updates regarding the strange characters and goings on on this year’s Celebrity Big Brother back in the UK (her way of keeping awake to fend off the jet lag).
The restaurant had tuned its radio to Smooth FM and the background melodies of the likes of Foreigner and Adele was almost enough to have this bunch of lonely men of a certain age to weep into their baked beans and hash browns. Almost.
I didn’t linger. I sought distraction and went to learn about the convict history of Sydney at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. That cheered me up. I did feel a little better by lunchtime – about half way down my glass of IPA….
I am looking forward to travelling to Auckland, New Zealand tomorrow. It will be a distraction – new country and time to catch up with colleagues and have a beer with my cousin, who I haven’t seen in quite a while .
And, I’m counting down the days to coming home.