Archive for January, 2012

Eleanor Fuller Presents Sooo British


As part of the Strasbourg So British promotion, which I previously wrote about here and here, this evening I am going to see the film “Mrs Henderson Presents” at the Odysée cinema gratuit, free, nichts, for nothing. Not bad eh?

It is part of a retrospective season of Stephen Frears films which includes; ChériThe Queen, Mrs Henderson Presents, Mary ReillyPrick Up Your EarsDangerous LiaisonsThe Hit and Tamara Drewe. We are getting to see tonights showing free courtesy of the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Council of Europe. It is the first time in four and a half years living here  that I have had any contact with the local representatives of the British government.

Earlier this month there was a season of films by David Lean at the Star cinema and there will be a season of Ken Loach films at the  Odysée in April and May. I leave this post here in order to properly follow the events with the England cricket team in the desert.

UPSATE: Here is a photo from before the film started where the two hosts for the evening, the manager of the cinema and the UK Representative, are introducing the film. There was a good audience and the people I talked to enjoyed the film. It was good to sit in an old fashioned theatre style cinema, it has been in use as such since 1913.

David enters the lions den


Well that is how we were spun to believe it would be when British Prime Minister, David Cameron MP came to Strasbourg to speak to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As with most things it wasn’t like that at all. It was my belief that it was actually more a case of he came here and said what he had to in order to not be in bad faith with what he has said in the UK about the European Court of Human Rights. That of course is being done to throw some red anti-European meat to the barking anti-Europeans in his party.

I was there and listened to the speech and to Mr Cameron then answer questions from members of the Assembly. You can read it if you follow this link, CoE Camo2012, together with the question and answer session that followed the speech. The pictures show the Prime Minister making the speech and then taking questions in the hemicycle of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As I tweeted then I was not impressed with the speech, for the reasons given above about it being him talking to Daily Mail readers in the UK and because I thought there were factual and logical mistakes in the text. After the talk about the achievements of Winston Churchill, which include playing a part in the construction of the Council of Europe, and work to promote democracy, human rights and rule of law in Europe after the Second World War, it was a rather shameful speech from someone who would be a statesman. 3/10 Should do better or to put a more modern way, #speechfail

A Tramcar Named Sooo British


I last wrote about the Sooo British festival that had been launched to coincide with the British Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Friday. Yesterday morning I got onto the E tram line and went to the penultimate stop, Droits de l’homme, Human Rights. I am pleased and think it’s quite cool that there is a tram stop called Human Rights. It has the name of course because it is the stop for the European Court of Human Rights and is situated right out side the front of the building, designed by the renowned British architect, Lord Richard Rogers.

I joined a number of other British residents of Strasbourg, a lot of whom work for the Court. Also present was the Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg responsible for European and International Relations, Nawel Rafik-Elmrini, Keith Whitmore, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and Eleanor Fuller, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Council of Europe. Each of the dignitaries made a little speech before removing the sheet covering a poster which will commemorate the Sooo British half-year at the Droits de l’homme tram stop. Just after that a tram arrived also decorated with the logo of the campaign, the British flag over the shape of the Strasbourg Cathedrale. There was just time for the three dignitaries to have their picture taken in the tram doorway before it sped off.

Then came the best bit as far as I was concerned. I was stood talking with the partner of my fellow Manchester City watching fan when a journalist from the regional TV approached and enquired about whether I was English. On hearing that I was she asked me some questions about the event and I replied in English and French. I was only sorry they cut out the advert for our play, ‘Oh What A Lovely War‘ which forms part of the Sooo British programme. Here it is, the piece on the trams starts at 2 minutes 6 seconds into the news. Listen to the first story though as it’s about Strasbourg as a city for the pedestrian, see me, enjoy:


Strasbourg Calling (Sooo British)


Between November 2011 and May 2012 the UK is the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe. Not the European Union, which is also run by a committee of ministers confusingly called the Council of the European Union, but the Council of Europe (CoE) the body promoting and protecting Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law throughout its 47 countries. The CoE is probably best known for overseeing the work of the European Court of Human Rights(EHCR). The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, announced the UK government’s priorities for its chairmanship of the CoE’s Committee of Ministers in a written statement:

“The overarching theme of our Chairmanship will be the protection and promotion of human rights. The Government has repeatedly made it clear that human rights are central to its foreign policy. We aim to be an example of a society that upholds human rights and democracy, and we are committed to strengthening the rules based international system.”

Here is a list of the items which have happened during the Chairmanship and, as you can see here the UK Foreign Office even has a logo for the period. (above)

There is also a programme of 30 cultural activities has organised by the Communauté urbaine de Strasbourg (The council for the municipality of Strasbourg) in the period under the heading ‘Sooo British‘ with a brochure highlighting them all, available by clicking on this link [PDF, 971 KB, new window] A friend who was at the offices of the council this week to renew his parking permit said that the building was plastered with posters promoting it. I have to declare an interest at this point as the theatre group, TAGORA, of which I am a member are putting onOh What A Lovely War” in April which has ben included as part of the programme. (It was actually at a rehearsal last night I was told about the posters at the local council offices.)

The political oversight of the CoE is provided by the Parliamentary Assembly, where members of parliament, representing their home parliament, from the 47 countries meet four times a year in Strasbourg to elect judges to the court, receive reports on the activity of the CoE and to receive reports on matters affecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law in member countries. The first meeting for 2012 takes place next week and it is going to be addressed by both the UK Minister for Europe and the Prime Minister.(here is the agenda for the meeting.)

You’re my Number One


A thing is going around some of my friends on facebook which publishes on your wall the song which was number one on the date of your birth. For me it came up with Cliff and the Shads and ‘Summer Holiday‘. I was sure this was wrong and checked on five different sites and they all said that it was actually Frank Ifield and ‘Wayward Wind’. In the midst of this I came across this site which listed all the number one songs for each of my birthdays since I was born. After a good beginning the list goes a bit poor, has one of the better examples of glam rock, and I’m pleased to have Kate Bush’s masterpiece in the list and it then takes off from 1984 to ’92, apart from Jason, of course before only the occasional decent thing. Here’s the top of the pops when I was born:

And just for a bit of fun here’s the full list:

1963 Frank Ifield – Wayward Wind                                  1964 Cilla Black – Anyone Who Had A Heart

1965 Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual                                  1966 Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walking

1967 Engelbert Humperdink – Release Me                     1968 Esther and Abi Ofarim – Cinderella Rockefella

1969 Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To My Lovely?  1970 Lee Marvin – Wandrin’ Star

1971 Mungo Jerry – Baby Jump                                         1972 Nilsson – Without You

1973 Slade – Cum On Feel The Noize                               1974 Alvin Stardust – Jealous Mind

1975 Telly Savalas – If                                                          1976 Tina Charles – I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance)

1977 Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D’Amour              1978 Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

1979 Bee Gees – Tragedy                                                     1980 Fern Kinney – Together We Are Beautiful

1981 Roxy Music – Jealous Guy                                         1982 Tight Fit – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

1983 Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart            1984 Nena – 99 Red Balloons

1985 Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) 1986 Diana Ross – Chain Reaction

1987 Boy George – Everything I Own                               1988 Kylie Minogue – I Should Be So Lucky

1989 Jason Donovan – Too Many Broken Hearts          1990 Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me

1991 Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go                      1992 Shakespears Sister – Stay

1993 2 Unlimited – No Limit                                              1994 Mariah Carey – Without You

1995 Celine Dion – Think Twice                                        1996 Take That – How Deep Is Your Love

1997 Spice Girls – Mama / Who Do You Think You Are 1998 Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

1999 Boyzone – When The Going Gets Tough                2000 Madonna – American Pie

2001 Shaggy featuring Rikrok – It Wasn’t Me                2002 Will Young – Anything Is Possible / Evergreen

2003 Christina Aguilera – Beautiful                                 2004 Britney Spears – Toxic

2005 Stereophonics – Dakota                                            2006 Chico – It’s Chico Time

2007 Take That – Shine                                                       2008 Duffy – Mercy

2009 Flo Rida – Right Round                                             2010 Tinie Tempah – Pass Out

2011 Adele – Someone Like You

Of the ones listed I own those by Peter Sarstedt, The Clash, Shakespears Sister, Madonna and Adele. For completeness here’s the number one on my most recent birthday:



If the email received today is anything to go by it seems I have joined Charlie Sheen in #winning:

From: London Olympic Draw 2012. <>
Sent: Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 23:06
Subject: Dear Respondent.

Stonecutter Court
1 Stonecutter Street  
United Kingdom
EC4A 4TR  

Ref No: JG3/6801/LNDL


Dear Respondent,

We are pleased to announce your email address as one of the 20 lucky winners in the Deloitte/London 2012 Olympic Games Promotional Draw held on the 11th July 2007.  All 20 winning addresses were randomly selected from a batch of 100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand) international emails addresses.

You have therefore been awarded a promotional prize money of GBP 3,800,000.00 (Three Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Pounds) only.

Your email address emerged alongside 19 others as a category winner in this series.

The Deloitte/London 2012 Olympic Games Promotional Draw is proudly in association with, Grosvernor UK, Centros Miller, Marshalls, Cushman & Wakefield, & Drapers International, it has been organized to encourage the use of the internet and computers.

It is worthy of note that over GBP 25 Million Pounds are won annually in our promotional draws in over 150 countries world-wide.

Below are particulars attached to your winning payment order:

Batch No:    90556313/251
Winning No: 13-53-61-82-85 Bonus No: 7

You are advised to currently keep your winning information confidential untill you claim your prize. This is part of our precautionary measure to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this promo.

Kindly contact our Promotional Claims Agent to enable a quick process of your winning prize.

Pamela Goldman (Promotional Claims Agent)
Deloitte/London Olympic Games Draw  
Stonecutter Court
1 Stonecutter Street  
United Kingdom
EC4A 4TR  

Once again, we say congratulations.


Garret Donegan
Public Affairs Officer

Note: All winners outside the UK have been granted automatic visa waiver to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games. A special Gala party will also be held in your honour by the City of London Council.

Now to reply to the email to claim my prize, after all what could go wrong, right?

Stop it, you’re being nasty, go away


The Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society at University College London has put the image below from the cartoon, Jesus and Mo, on their facebook page to advertise a weekly pub social. The students union at the University has asked them to remove it as it is offensive. Thankfully the Society has refused and started a campaign against this censorship including a petition here. The petition states:

“In response to complaints from a number of students, the University College London Union has insisted that the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society remove the following image from a Facebook event advertising a pub social. It has done so on the grounds that it may cause offence to Muslim students.

This is a gross infringement on its representatives’ right to freedom of expression taken by members of the first secular university in England. All people are free to be offended by any image they view. This does not give them the right to impose their beliefs on others by censoring such images.

We the undersigned urge the University College London Union to immediately halt their attempts to censor the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society and uphold its members’ right to freedom of expression.”

I have already signed the petition and would urge anyone reading this to do the same. The Rationalist Association cover the matter here.

I have followed the Jesus and Mo cartoon for a number of years and have enjoyed the witty way it raises issues relating to belief systems and religions whilst suggesting the world would be better if we just got on more with each other and not looking at what divides us. Having the main prophets of the two main religions concerned disputing with a barmaid whilst drinking down a pub is, I think  part of the charm and wit of the comic strips. Like this blogger I am surprised they have not drawn the ire of those who would ban and censor before.

One of the Islamic societies at the university has issued a statement:

Once a particular act is deemed to be offensive to another, it is only good manners to refrain from, at the very least, repeating that act. In this particular case, when at first the cartoon was uploaded, it could have been mistaken as unintentional offense. When certain Muslims voiced their offense over the issue, for any civil, well-mannered individual or group of individuals, it should then be a question as to the feelings of others and the cartoons should then have been removed.

I could like other bloggers list a number of things I find offensive about Islamic practice, like the treatment of women, gay men etc and undoubtedly once I have asked the perpetrators of those practices to stop they will. Hmmm, didn’t think so. Shows what a weak argument they have. Alternatively I could just follow the response of the fantastic Butterflies and Wheels blog, “Bollocks.”

Showing the power of Jesus and Mo here is an another response to the Islamic association:

On a different note, another artist I discovered by seeing her live at my local music venue (5 minutes walk from my door.)  was Anna Calvi. I had avoided looking into her music as it had been the subject of so much hype but I am glad that last Autumn I went to see her. The show was spectacular and I didn’t think three largely static people could give such a powerful show. If she is playing near you go and see her. I’ve also bought the album and play it frequently. She was responsible for dragging me into the 21st century as I bought it as a download; I had bought individual tracks during the last couple of years but it was the first full album I bought that way. I don’t know what it was about last year but most of the things I liked were by women, often very percussion focused. Anyway, enjoy:


Priors Gardens – the story of the book


The last two days have been busy with work and helping JTO publish her novel, Priors Gardens, on the site of Mr Amazon. You can get it here. Buy it. I shall post a review here when I have read it.

I am particularly pleased to see the publication of this book as I had the idea of writing the story in the first place. First thanks for their help in this project got Austrian Airlines. JTO and I were due to go to Sofia for a meeting of the Economic Affairs and Development Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. JTO had to present a report to the Committee on the work of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in the previous year. The committee didn’t normally meet in Bulgaria, it was usually Paris or Strasbourg, but it had gone to Bulgaria at the behest and invitation of its new Chair, who was Bulgarian. Anyway, there was a delay to the RailAir coach to Heathrow but we arrived at Heathrow with enough time to check-in for the flight. Or so we thought. We got to the right check-in desk to find a massive long queue and whilst a number of us were still waiting to check-in the airline closed it. We went over to their desk to complain and find out what they would do to get us on the flight to be treated very rudely and told we did not get to the check-in in time so it was our fault. Something they continued to keep up when we complained in writing. We have never flown with that airline since and have no intention of doing so again. There was nothing to do we had to wait for the next flight at the same time the next day.

We didn’t want to go home to Reading and face the same problem with traffic the next day so we decided to book into a hotel in Paddington so we could get an early train the next morning to make our flight. We popped into the office but as we were supposed to be in Bulgaria there was nothing for us to do. So we headed back to Paddington. In the middle of Spring Street, across Praed Street from the station was an Italian restaurant which we had been to before and enjoyed eating at.(Though I notice it has recently closed. The photo is of the view across the road from the restaurant.) During the meal we got round to talking about JTO being from West London, it being on the Central Line and, having nothing to do for the afternoon, I suggest that we go and visit South Ruislip. In parenthesis I think I should add that around this time we had visited Leighton Buzzard where JTO grew up, Durham, where she went to university, and Liverpool, where I went to university.

After finishing eating we walked to Lancaster Gate tube station and took the Central Line out to South Ruislip tube station. Coming out of the station and crossing the West End Road brings you to Great Central Avenue. The fourth turning on the right is Priors Gardens, our destination. This was the first home Jane’s Parent’s had and where she spent most of the first seven years of her life, attending the Bourne Primary School which was just at the end of the road.  At 12 Priors Gardens was the house and the people who lived there then were kind enough to let us have a look round the garden which brought a lot of memories back for JTO.(The picture shows the side of the house behind JTO.)

The houses in the estate between the railway lines and West End Road, along with the school, were built after the end of the Second World war, in the middle of the 1950’s, as part of the then Conservative government’s housebuilding programme. As a result the first tennants for these new family houses were from the local council waiting list and were in a similar situation. JTO told me about the two houses next to hers which both had a family which both had a girl the same age as JTO. Whilst walking around the area, trying to find the place where other family members had lived we talked more about what happened to the two other girls, the one next door who was the daughter of a Polish fighter pilot (and here) in the war, who went into the police and became known in the 1980’s, and the girl who lived on the other side of her. Three girls born in the 1950’s in the middle of the boomer generation, who later went on to do things. A story of women in the second half of the twentieth century. I said it just had to be a book as it was a terrific story. That was the start for the book. To find out more about the story buy the book.

Ronald Searle RIP


I am currently listening to a broadcast of the BBC program me Desert Island Discs from July 2005.(Which is where I stole the picture from) It is about the illustrator and satirist Ronald Searle whose death was announced today. I was new to one of his most famous creations, Molesworth, only recently. When I was younger I was not allowed to have anything to do with the books because it was thought I might be infected by the (deliberate) wrong spellings in the book. I forgot about the books until JTO talked about her love for the books and a few years ago I bought her a collection of the books which Searle’s drawings are such an important part of. I didn’t get round to reading them until last year and fell in love with them too. I am sorry I did not have Down With Skool, How to be Topp etc as they would have helped me survive my time at school with the observation and humour.

He is also well known for drawing the St Trinians stories which featured what the Desert Island Discs site described as:

“the horrible, suspender-wearing schoolgirls who devote more time to gambling, torture and arson than they do their lessons.”

and  were made into seven films.

He continued drawing political. satirical drawings and reportage. and his archive is held in Hanover. An exhibition of his work was organised only just over a year ago. Here is the announcement from Reuters. Molesworth can be followed on twitter @reelmolesworth. UPDATE. By far the best obituary was this from The Economist written in the style of Molesworth, it well repays the few minutes it takes to read it.

Until Joan As Policewoman came to the local music venue I knew nothing of them apart from hearing one track on the CD that accompanies my monthly magazine, The Word. I saw them and had a great evening and I bought The Deep Field and have been enjoying it all year. Here’s the track I first heard, The Magic, enjoy:

Looking to the Future


The start of a new year and time to review the last year, as I did here, and to look forward to the coming year. As might have been said in a favourite TV programme, I’m not a big resolutions person. I normally make one that I religiously stick to, to not make any resolutions. This year I am again not making any. I have decided though to try and put a bit of a dent in the profits of Mr Amazon and the other booksellers by not buying any new books until I have read all the books I have in my reading pile, on e-readers and in my bookcase that I have not read. I do not expect this to be a hard and fast rule, or resolution, more just something I want to try and do. Obviously, if Milan Kundera or Jonathon Coe were to release a new book then it would have to be bought. Recognising that it has been over a decade since there was a new novel by Mr Kundera and Mr Coe has just had one out I am not holding my breath for something new to read on either account. When you include the number of books that will come my way from JTO during the year then I do not think I will be without something readable in my hands during the coming year.

Another thing to consider at the beginning of a year are plans for travel. In June last year I went with JTO on a great trip to Hamburg.(Hamburg Town Hall pictured) Like one of my favourite European capitals, Riga, it was a Hanseatic port. I must admit to knowing nothing about the Hanseatic League before going to Riga but after the visit to Hamburg decided I wanted to visit more Hanseatic port cities. So, for my birthday in March JTO and I are planning to visit Gdansk. As well as being a Hanseatic port, when it was in Germany before 1945 it was the birthplace of the German author Günter Grass whose memoir, ‘Peeling the Onion‘ I read a few years ago which made me want to visit what was then Danzig. Of course there is also the significant role it played in post-war history as the birthplace of Solidarność, the trade union which played such an important part in the ending of the false division of my homeland continent. So that I’m looking forward to a lot, particularly as the plan is to travel there by rail so we’ll be crossing Europe.

I expect to be working in the UK for July and August giving a chance to catch up with family and friends there then. After finishing the contract I’ll return home before heading off for a break with JTO. The plan is to go to Israel. I’ve wanted to visit the country for a long time but reading another book, ‘City of Oranges‘ by Adam LeBor (blog) about the story of ordinary people and their lives in the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In 2005 we went to Egypt and were struck by how the landscape looked like the pictures in the illustrated bible I had as a child. As well as visiting Tel Aviv-Jafa, I’m looking forward to seeing for real the places like Jerusalem I read about as a child when I was in Sunday school or when younger and reading bible stories for myself.

As well there are visits by JTO to the UK later this month and probably in May. In 2003 we visited Corsica, some of which was for JTO to see members of the French Foreign Legion Parachute force storm a beach near Calvi. That is not expected to happen this time. But, on the stocks is a visit to the island and a travel around it by train following the viewing of this. I expect there will be visits out into parts of Alsace to experience more of the place which we call home.

Another CD I bought last year and enjoyed was Lykke Li‘s Wounded Rhymes. Here’s ‘Sadness is a Blessing,’ enjoy:

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