Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Burano is an island a few kilometers into the lagoon from Venice. The men are traditionally fishermen, and the women were famous for their lacework. Jan Morris writes:

"Later the industry languished so disastrously that when they came to resuscitate it, only one very old lady survived who knew how to make Venetian point: they muffled her in woollies, stuffed her with pills, and gently filched her secrets before she died."

I don't care much about lace, nor about the fish that are caught in a 55 square km open sewer. But Burano is also known for its colourful houses. Stunningly pretty.

The campanile in Burano, like another more famous Italian tower, is leaning at a precarious angle. It's almost as if building a tall narrow tower that's expected to last for centuries on a swamp isn't a good idea. I like to think that when it leans too far to one side, one of the local builders wanders over and puts his shoulder against it. It moves with a sucking, squelching noise until it's leaning in the opposite direction. He dusts his hands and moseys home for a panini and a cigarette.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a Bright Christmas

The great thing about Christmas is having a traditional kiwi barbeque and maybe catching some rays in the deckchair.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Venice at Night

The Rialto Bridge:

The Bridge of Sighs. So named because when prisoners were taken to see what the dilweed Italians had done to the bridge, they sighed.

The Campanile (tower) in St Mark's Square. According to Jan Morris, it was begun in 912, and in the 15th century misbehaving clerics were hung in cages on the side of it, sometimes until they starved. Emperor Frederick III once rode his horse up it, and Galileo used the platform near the top to demonstrate his newly invented telescope to the Doge.

Goethe visited it. Wait, didn't he beat me to that salt mine in Poland as well? Bastard, he's always one step ahead!

The Basilica in St Mark's Square. The 4 horses that you can just see above the main arch are replicas (the originals that stood there are in a nearby museum). They were captured from Constantinople during the fourth crusade.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Shimmer

I'm back from my latest trip. Aww, thanks. I missed you too.

The trick to these "Guess where James has been" posts is for me to show a photo that gives subtle hints, without giving the game away. It's quite the tightrope act.

This is a tricky one. Don't give it away...don't give it away...


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Night of the Concorde

Our work Xmas party was in a plane hanger. When I first received the email, the thought that went through my mind was: "How cheap is this company? Are all the disused coal mines already booked?"

However, the hanger in question is at Duxford, 12 miles from Cambridge. It's part of the large air museum there and is crammed full of historic British aircraft. As parties go, it was quite different.

Apologies for the cell phone pics. The lighting was terrible.

Looking along the Concorde:

Standing in a bomb bay:

The two photos from above were taken after I climbed up to the balcony, where I was confronted by a security woman. She asked me "Are you in the band?" I replied that I wasn't and she shooed me down. It reminds me of that scene in Ghostbusters where Venkman says "Ray, if somebody asks if you're a god, you say 'Yes'!"

Lesson for the day: If someone from security asks if you're with the band, always say 'Yes'.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Musical Cheers

Mostly, even with CDs that I love, I'll eventually get sick of them. In high school, I don't know how many time I listened to the "Best of Blondie" album, but it's probably a ridiculous number. The same goes for "Jagged Little Pill" a few years later. But it's pretty rare that I would listen to either of those today.

A couple of years back, my cousin made me a CD with some of her favourite songs. It ranged from well known artists to ones I'd never heard of. And I still have that CD on fairly high rotation - it's just great. This week, I saw my third artist off that disc since I arrived in England: Dar Williams.

Dar's the one that isn't a bald man

She played a small club in Soho called "the Borderline", that was. It was only by chance that I spotted the concert and ordered a ticket 4 months ago. It was a long wait. She was fun live, and told some hilarious stories.

If you want to hear a catchy song from a singer that you've probably never heard before, check out "Are you Out There" at http://www.myspace.com/darwilliams. I don't think it's Firefox friendly.

Here's to you, F. I imagine it's been a tough year for you and M. Thinking of you.

Poland: Snow More to Tell

The next morning, I needed to get up early and head home. The sound of driving rain that I feel asleep to, had been replaced with absolute silence. Here's the view from my window.

Whenever you return to England from overseas, there's always a jolt when you realise that the place your coming back to isn't as good as the holiday place. For this trip, that jolt came when my bus from Stansted to Cambridge was an hour late, and they didn't even apologise. By comparison, the Polish bus that I caught from Zakopane back to Krakow, through the early morning snow in the Tatra mountains, on a national holiday, was cheap, pleasant, and on time.

So, that's that trip done. Poland: Highly recommended.