Monday, April 30, 2007

So I've got a new







bike. So I've been out cycling. So I've taken some photos. So here's one of a footbridge at Castlefield in Manchester. Sometime prior to Castlefield becoming a canal basin it was a favourite hangout of the Romans. And those of you who've read any Roman history will know what a bunch of bad bastards them ancient Romans were.

Romans are no longer a worry in Castlefield so all in all I had a good day out. Thank you for asking.

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's raining in Manchester...


again! Over the past few weeks it's hardly rained at all but hey, when there's bike riding to be done the weather must be fine, ipso facto. I'm not advocating drought, or global warming but since purchasing my new bike (hmmm, and just who is that handsome stranger...) I prefer drier weather.

Indeed had the weather not been loverly, and had I not been out cycling this here image might never have been recorded.

In term of choices I'm ready to admit my passion for cycling might have been total had I first considered a machine that would fit through a front door, or perhaps chosen a model to mount rather than ascend, and then there's the nose bleeds. But what is pleasure without sacrifice? What is indulgence without pain? What is enjoyment without a rat gnawing at the innards, tearing and ripping and slashing and the blood and the gore and the mess, the stinking slippery mess...

Oops, suddenly came over all Mel Gibson... maybe need to lie down a moment... sip camomile tea...

Jeeze, and all I did was buy a bike...

How hard is that?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Here's a photo...










of my yard that I'm preparing for the summer. Wey hey!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I read the other day...

in Hayden's blog that meat producers in the US feed arsenic to chickens as an approved additive. Arsenic promotes growth, kills parasites and improves pigmentation, indeed it is the next miracle food. I said it to my broker only the other day, Tarquin I said, the future's in arsenic so buy arsenic futures. My friends say, Dan, much more of this and you'll have no future, but what do they know, the fools ha ha ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

I've also discovered that tincture of arsenic taken before breakfast can settle the bowels and calm the innards. Can prepare a person for the day, even if it might be their last.

Of course the food industry in Europe is not beyond reproach in this regard. A recent Food Safety Agency investigation showed 25% of chicken flocks in the EU were infected with salmonella. And doesn't this just demonstrate the yawning gap between the US and Europe? Amerca, bold, brash believes in poisoning its customers directly whereas European food manufacturers prefer more indirect means. Why kill em stone dead when you can make them linger? Linger longer spenda casha. Hmmm, might sell that slogan, make some dosh, buy more futures before what's left of mine runs out.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Rome Adventures II...


To walk through the Roman Forum and touch the brickwork and marbled masonry, to stand next to the cremation place of Julius Caesar was quite the experience. Within the Forum are triumphal arches, basilicas, the Rostra where speeches were declaimed and the Curia wherein the Senate met and plotted. Along the Via Sacra, ancient Rome's most important street I too walked as had Pompey, Cicero and others before me, not that I'm comparing myself, for a start I'm not that big a bastard. Being so close to history can make a person thoughtful and it was impossible to mistake how grand the place originally had been. Tom Holland in his book Rubicon quotes Plutarch who records that to achieve Caesar's conquest of Gaul 1 million people were killed, 1 million were enslaved and 800 cities were taken by storm. Rome's dominance lasted for hundreds of years and the conquest of Gaul was only one campaign, little wonder therefore it produced an architecture of equal magnificence to its power.

Would I go back, you bet your sweet boo boo I bloody well would. For a start we barely scratched the surface, barely tasted the food, barely drank the wine (Sean's teetotal anyway) barely heard enough sublime opera, barely walked those wonderful streets, barely sat in those wonderful gardens, barely drank enough espresso and I certainly wasn't rude enough about the Catholic Church.

The oranges, by the way, are from The Palatine Hill where the posh, powerful and super rich of Rome used to live. 2000 years ago my ancestors, who were mainly blue due to an excess of woad will probably have encountered the Romans. Glad I missed that one...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A post for...


Guyana Gyal.

Arriving in Rome, Sean (that's him on the right, a too flattering photo to my mind) and I disembarked from our train at the San Pietro station and walked to St Peter's Square. The square itself is a fairly grand affair demonstrating as much the wealth and power of the Catholic church as the Glory of God. To be honest its grandeur was the only thing I found interesting and the layer upon layer of statuary and symbolism too crowded and too overwhelming. The square is situated in the centre of huge columned curves topped off with numerous statues of those the church wish to honour.

Grandeur though, was the common denominator in Rome and grandeur linked St Peter's Square, the Colosseum, The Pantheon and all the other places we experienced. Rome is a city of grandeur, of magnificence, of great beauty and to be honest I fell in love and dream of returning. Given I'm from a cold and wet Manchester it was a pleasure to sit in pavement cafes drinking aromatic espresso coffee and watch the world go by. For holiday reading I took with me Tom Holland's Rubicon, his very fine narrative history of Rome from it's origins in 753BC until the death of Caesar Augustus in AD14. Holland mainly concentrates his energies on the period of dynastic and internecine struggles that characterised Rome from the end of the wars with Carthage to the more stable government established by Augustus.

Rome's many baroque attractions were impressive by any standards and I was particularly taken by the Trevi Fountain and Castel Sant'Angelo, However in terms of jaw dropping impressiveness the infinitely older Pantheon and The Colosseum stood out particularly. The Pantheon is a circular building 43 metres in diameter and 43 metres in height with a roof span of 43 metres unsupported by columns or external buttressing. That is to say the roof is totally supported by the walls and there are no buttresses on the outside. Durham Cathedral in the UK is one of my favourite buildings but the weight of its height requires huge flying buttresses to stop the walls from bulging outwards. The Pantheon although a fraction the size of Durham nevertheless presented similar architectural problems for supporting a single span roof. Roman architects and engineers, expert concreters that they were, solved the weight problem by using pumice in the roof concrete to make it light and rigid. Clever stuff, especially given another 900 years were to pass before thoughts as grand as Cathedrals in Durham was even pondered.

Ah, GG has set me going now and I want to describe the Roman Forum and our visit to the opera where we heard a wonderful Tosca at the tiny Teatro Flaiano sung by Olga Kotlyarova. I was also excited by the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, the gardens in the Villa Borghese, and to be frank, the literally hundreds of places we did not see. Plus, I'm unable to leave Rome alone until I've mentioned the sheer brutality of those early times that Tom Holland so ably describes in Rubicon. Cruelty, sacrifice and suffering were the foundations of ancient Rome and whilst it's monuments are astonishing in their beauty and scope I could not enjoy them without also reflecting on the human cost of that Imperial vision.

More of this later...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rome...






what a stunning city. Words can't do the place justice so I've posted some photos on Flickr, to't right.