A weekend in the South of France

Recently I went to Nimes in France for a couple of days work. Nimes is a beautiful little city with beautiful old French and Roman buildings in the middle of town.

Maison Carrée, Nimes

I have been to Nimes before so after I finished up on Friday night I went to see some of the other cities in the south of France.

First stop was Avignon which is a town that the Popes once lived in when the murdering and the warring in Italy got a little too much for them. When things calmed down to the normal level or warring and murdering they went back to Rome. Avignon has dined out on the legacy of once being Pope HQ ever since and as such is a bit of a tourist trap.

The Popes Palace (Palais Des Papes) Avignon

My second stop, Montpelier was a young student town that has a really party feel to it. The party atmosphere was considerably helped along by the gay and lesbian mardi gra that happened to be in town the night I was there. The G&L’s certainly know how to party, maybe that is why organised religion hate them so much, pure jealousy.

Montpellier gay and lesbian festival was in town

Montpellier

Lastly on Sunday I went to Perpignan which smells like pee.

ANZAC DAWN SERVICE IN LONDON

This morning I got up at 4am and rode to Hyde Park Corner to participate in the Australian and New Zealand Army Core dawn service to commemorate the Aussie and Kiwi soldiers who have gone to war for their countries. The service starts at dawn to match the time that the ANZACs first hit Gallipoli beach in Turkey 93 years ago. Eight months of bitter military stalemate later 2721 New Zealand, 8709 Australian, 33,072 British, 10,000 French and 87,000 Turkish soldiers were dead.

New Zealand has had worse days while fighting for King and country but the Gallipoli campaign was the first.

In 1914, New Zealand’s population was just over one million. When the war began 124,211 men joined up and 100,444 went overseas. This was a staggering 10 percent of NZ’s population. 40% of all men aged between 18 and 45 signed up. Per capita New Zealand made the largest contribution to World War 1.

The last ANZAC dawn service I attended in London was on a hungover Saturday morning in 1998 just after I first arrived in London. That service was at an Australian memorial in Battersea Park and only a few dozen people turned up to hear legendary Australian orator Clive James speak. From memory he talked about how modern historian’s views about the Gallipoli campaign had changed and as he was saying what they had changed to a slow low flying plane flew over and I missed it all.

Today’s service at the new New Zealand memorial on Hyde Park Corner was attended by a much larger crowd as ANZAC commemorations seem to be undergoing something of a global revival. This service was a much more religious affair with lots of prayers and songs to Jesus the so called “prince of peace” etc. I guess it’s hard to tell young men to run towards machine guns if they don’t believe they will go to a better place when it inevitable goes badly wrong for them.

ANZAC Dawn Service Hyde Park Corner 2008

None of my Aussie/Kiwi mates who said they would come actually made the early start. Excuses included: sleeping, over-sleeping laziness trumping patriotism and just getting back from Nam.

Protest outside the Chinese embassy in London

Twice a day I ride past the Chinese embassy in London. It isn’t well marked so you would never know it was there if it weren’t for the permanent peaceful protest by supporters of Falun Gong. They are ticked off that their government imprisons them and sells their internal organs before they have finished using them. The other give away is the cop with a machine gun across the road.

Tonight the usual one or two man protest was slightly larger as about a hundred people turned up to protest the deaths of a number of protesters in Tibet. Naturally there was a much larger number of police with automatic weapons. The good news is that we live in a democracy where civil rights are protected by the law and the police don’t gun people down in the street who disagree with the government.

Protest outside Chinese Embassy London

Terror attack on UK by pagan fundamentalists

Some of you may know that my skeptical nature leads me to take the piss out of all manner of people with wacky super being beliefs. Well last week I scorned the pagans who were going to use “rain magic”? to wash away a giant painted Homer Simpson on the hill next to the Cerne Abbas Giant.

Homer Simpson on the hill next to the Cerne Abbas Giant

Well it looks like I was completely wrong and those pagan terrorists have attacked the UK with their rain magic to devastating effect. Watch this space for reports of police action to round up these pagan fundamentalists who will stop at nothing to impose their ancient belief system on the people of the UK.

Homer v Cerne Abbas Giant

In the green corner Homer J Simpson and a giant donut. In the other green corner the Cerne Abbas Giant and his unwashed pagan hippies followers.

This is made additionally funny by the fact that the silly pagans are going to perform rain magic to wash it away. I imagine that is exactly the sort of behaviour Homer would approve of :)

Homer Simpson on the hill next to the Cerne Abbas Giant

The Bomblers are at it again

It’s been 9 years since I last went to Tiger Tiger in Leicester Square. Sixteen hours before I was due to make a return visit for a friend’s birthday some evil bastard parked a car packed with explosives and nails outside it.

Luckily the bombers are once again as skilful as they are sane and the bomb never went off. Thankfully in the UK there seems to be a high correlation between being a sadistic terrorist murderer and being a bumbling incompetent.

When will the bombers learn? Horrifically killing innocent people doesn’t get you paradise and virgins. It gets you a little concrete cube to spend the rest of your life in with a guy called bubba who makes you wear lipstick.

FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER WADES INTO INTELLIGENT DESIGN ‘DEBATE’

There is a movement in the USA at the moment called ‘intelligent design’ that is having quite a lot of success getting schools to teach children that the theory of evolution is a load of rubbish. George Bush, a man who coincidentally bares a remarkable resemblance to a chimpanzee, has famously come out and backed the teaching of ‘intelligent design’ to American school children. This is despite the overwhelming majority of the scientific community saying ID is total fundamentalist bullshit.

It’s great to know that in one of the great debates of our time the piss takers have teamed up with the scientists against the religious crackpots.

Flying Spaghetti Monster

For further information try Googling ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster‘.

MHNATY (May His Noodley Appendage Touch You)

BOMBERS HIT AGAIN

Today at three the bombers hit London again. Thankfully these bombers seem to be about as competent as The Three Stooges and early reports suggest that no one was seriously hurt.

My Journey home looks shiteI really can’t make up my mind between walk bus train walk bus walk or walk bus walk bus train walk bus walk or even walk bus walk bus train walk bus walk. On the face of things bus train walk bus walk looks like it might be the go but if everyone else thinks the same thing then it almost certainly won’t be. I have a suspicious feeling that I might end up taking the walk walk walk walk walk walk walk walk walk walk walk walk option.

THE LONDON BOMBING

I tried to get into work early to get some stuff done before I headed off to the company prize giving at 1pm. Predictably Tooting Bec tube stop was closed because of some technical fault and I ended up walking to Balham taking an overland to Victoria and then bussing the rest of the way. I was enjoying my morning latte when I heard the news that there had been a derailment or an electrical surge that had damaged one of the tubes. London had won the 2012 Olympic bid the day before and transport was one of the key weaknesses of the London case. Having been delayed 45 minutes getting into work because of a technical fault I kind of felt that maybe the sticking plasters and number 8 wire that held the whole Underground together had held out just long enough to fool the Olympic committee. These thoughts quickly turned to disbelief as it became clear that what was going on was something much more abhorrent. At this stage all transport in central London was halted and most city workers were confined to their buildings as a precaution.

We were discussing how we would cross central London to the prize giving at Kensington High Street when we were evacuated as a suspect package was found at the police station across the road from our building. With the exception of the people from our building and the police the streets were eerily empty as we headed for the local park. After about 5 minutes or standing around feeling uncomfortably exposed in the open park with only our colleagues to act as a human shield in the event of an explosion we headed for the local pub.

During all this I had been trying to contact my parents. Initially I tried to send a text but the lines were so jammed with worried people texting each other that it was nearly impossible. After 30 minutes of trying I finally got one off and then rang the Olds on a payphone because they both got a C- in mobile phone use 101.

At this stage we began the long walk across central to the venue where the prize giving was to be held. They may have cancelled the prize giving but the exclusive rooftop garden, bbq and beer were all paid up and ready to go. This was probably a bit foolish as large parts of central London were still cordoned off as the police carried out a number of controlled explosions on packed lunches and gym bags. We even heard one of these go off near Kensington Palace. Thankfully none of these were actual bombs and the rest of the day passed without additional carnage.

In the end we did the only thing that sane people would do in this sort of situation – we got hellishly drunk.

The following map shows where the bombs went off in relation to my work.

Bomb locations near my work

DAY 84 – MUSSHAD

Musshad has the most important holy site for Shi’ite Muslims. The Holy Shrine of Emam Reza is worth 70,000 pilgrimages to Mecca (but still far less than one visit to a bar to worship Bob). This whole complex has 2 mosques, 4 museums,12 halls, 6 theological colleges, several libraries etc. And it’s beautiful. Sadly some of the best parts are off limits to non Muslim heathens like me. Another bummer is the no camera rule. And there is no chance to take sneaky pictures because you have to have a free guide. The good news is it’s all free and you even get all manner of free pamphlets and you get to choose two free books. I chose ‘The Last Message Imam Khomeini’ and the hard hitting ‘The Truth About Christianity’ (I knew they were hiding something). I am looking forward to both.

The main museum was also excellent. Amazingly well wishers have donated everything to the museum from Alexander the Great coins to gold medals from various games. They have received so much stuff over the years they can only display one fiftieth at any one time. Even better the head curator invited me to his office for tea and an a chat. He was incredibly interesting and I even offered to send him some New Zealand stamps when I get home (so that’s how he does it).

Here are some of his thoughts. At 32 I am far to old for marriage in Iran. Bugrit. Kids here usually get married before 23. The government even gives them one thousand dollars if they do it before they finish uni. This way they are less likely to have ‘illegal sex’. His words. Yes sex outside marriage here is illegal, it’s even a capital offence if the man is not a Muslim. They even sentenced a German guy to death for it a couple of years back. He got off on appeal.