Kingdom of ife

Wazup London on Saturday on a number 19 bus. Passed the British Museum and thought I’d have a look in. They had an exhebition on West African art with some very impressive sculpture. The kingdom of Ife seems to be the epicenter of this art.

Ife Art

Ife Art

Ife Art

Ife Art

Ife Art

Ife Art

antarctic report 8 – bashing sea ice

ES

ES

This is the eighth in our series of reports from David Goulden working for The British Antarctic Survey. In this report Dave gives us an account of his departure from Antarctica aboard the Ernest Shackleton.

The Ernest Shackleton (ES) arrived approximately a week earlier than scheduled and surprised us all. It seems that they had finished their science and thought that they would make their way to our section of the Brunt Ice Shelf.

Arriving early meant there was yet more pressure on us to shut the base down and leave for the winter. We started working on a “job and knock” basis where finishing our tasks meant we could actually go home! As part of the building tech services team it meant that the rest of base was waiting on us for the last two scheduled days of the season. The Base commander asked us every hour or so when we would be finished.

We had a quite a few helpers that weekend and we completed the programme of works by 1630hrs on Saturday afternoon fully expected to leave the base that evening. The James Clarke Ross (JCR) was moored up next to the ES down at the creek and ready and waiting to take her passengers on board, however the storm that had been threatening to come in did and, before we knew it, both ships had slipped there lines and pulled off to deep water to ride the storm out.

We became effectively base bound for the next 3 days waiting for the wind to drop. We fnally got the nod on Tuesday night that the construction teams would be leaving and we would depart the following day.

Our trip down to the coast took 40 minutes in terrible conditions, snow storms and very poor visibility which served as a reminder of why the continent empties of research staff at this time of year.

As we pulled up at the creek we were greeted by the ES and JCR. The JCR had stayed behind to offer wind cover for the ES as she loaded – the JCR had rammed herself into the ice 100 metres beyond the bows of the ES and at 90 degrees to her effectively shielding her from the weather.

We boarded quickly and the lines were cast off by the four solitary Winterers who stood at the edge of the sea ice with a skidoo. They waved as we reversed off and steamed north at 15kns into open water and, through the mist, we watched the continent fade into the sea and sky.

It was evening before we came across solid ice. We had been “bashing” small lumps of ice all afternoon but now there was solid islands of ice blocking our path. The ship did little to avoid such floes, the officer on watch made a visual assessment of the age of the ice. If it was less than 1 year old then no action was taken. If it was deemed several years old then the ship sped up and used its 4inch thick bow to crack through the ice floes.

As night approached the ship slowed slightly and spot lights were used to illuminate the floes through thick falling snow. The Captain took up residence in the crows nest with a set of binoculars and directed the officer on watch.

During the next two days the ship hit the floes with such impact that it we were almost thrown off our feet and a couple of times it stopped us dead. The sound as the floe passed the hull seemed like someone trying to open the hull with a can opener! During one of my visits to the bridge I heard the Captain order full speed on both engines and watched in trepidation and no little fear as we closed the gap on a large floe. The impact had the officers swearing and me trying to step backwards in an attempt to avoid the blow. My confidence wavered when I noticed the deck officer who appeared too young to shave!

We encountered much wildlife in these few days in the ice floes; seal, penguins (scurrying from bergs as we bore down on them), various birds and minke whales.

At night we lay in our cabins with the porthole open watching the floes glide by and the ship shuddered as it met resistance. After drifting off to sleep we would wake in the small hours and look out over a vast tumultuous sheet of ice. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before we came across open ocean, surprised at what good time we had made.

The ES is shaped like a spoon under the water and has no discernible relative draft. This means she is particularly unstable in anything more than ice floes and pitches and rolls like a bar of soap in a bath.

The weather was OK for the first few days with the Wedell Sea staying relatively calm as we crossed protected by the Antarctic peninsular for most of it. The sea has a gyratory current that traps bergs and spins them around. It is also pretty deep with the abyssal plain being over 4000m deep.

During the afternoons the ship practices sea trails and tests it’s dynamic position system which effectively holds the ship above a certain point over the sea bed using a complex array of thrusters and satellite navigation. When the ES is not in the Southern Ocean she spends her days in the North Sea as an oil support vessel running ROVs etc.

As we neared Signy, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands the sea became more shallow and less sheltered. We started picking up some weather that made the trip a little more unpleasant: Two days of force eight gales that trapped most of the team in bunks with even the hardiest of us mooching around nursing our stomachs and sleeping. The most comfortable place I could find turned out to be the running machine – holding on with one had at all times as I mnemonically trudged through km after km. I tried the rowing machine but this made me decidedly unwell; so much so that I had to stop.

We then had a few days of calmer water as we reach the ocean convergence zones where the Antarctic meets the Southern Ocean and the sea temperature rises creating sea mist. This is prime whaling territory and is ringed by an arc of islands with historic whaling stations.

We are making good time to Stanley and may arrive early – this will do us little good as our birth is not booked until the 19th and currently Stanley is very busy with oil rig support vessels and (hopefully) the odd destroyer.

A number of us are hoping to compete in the FI marathon which is deemed to be the toughest on the circuit. I have never run a marathon before and somehow doubt 12 weeks of running in snow followed by two weeks at sea will improve my chances but it will be good fun trying!

The wind has increased again to over 40knts as we head towards the Falklands shelf. The sea is staring to build and we have two or three wandering albatrosses gliding in our wake and alongside.

– David Goulden, Aboard the Ernest Shackleton, The Southern Ocean, Antarctica

31/01 Antarctic Report 7 – baffin boots and polished copper pipes
12/01 Antarctic Report 6 – deadmen timbers and russian catering
30/12 Antarctic Report 5 – prime movers, melt tank and cricket
22/12 Antarctic Report 4 – quiet week at 75 degrees south
15/12 Antarctic Report 3 – Mech boys, adventuring and the flow
08/12 Antarctic Report 2 – Penguins, balloons, stuffing and apple sauce
06/12 Antarctic Report 1 – Nunatacs, Blue Ice and 4 beers on Saturday night

Israel lays the groundwork for talks by spitting in the Palestinians faces

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Mark Regev

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Mark Regev

Today the BBC reported that U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has condemned Israel over a controversial settlement building project, claiming that its approval undermined trust in the peace process. Later, on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, I listed to the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, respond to criticism of the settlement activity  Mr. Regev claimed that the decision to allow the recent bunch of settlements was not under the government’s control as this was a local decision taken by a local council and…what can you do?

Mark Regev is TALKING BOLLOCKS!

The building of Israeli settlements on occupied land is illegal under international law. Israel’s national government is therefore responsible and should not even allow it’s local councils the power to take such decisions.

As usual Mr. Regev couched his replies in reasonable sounding language which could fool a casual listener. He slipped in the idea that this Israeli government has gone further than any other and announced a temporary moratorium on settlement building.

Firstly there is no moratorium if Israel is still approving more settlements.

Secondly, if the national government were able to enforce a moratorium in the West Bank then it must also have the power to enforce a moratorium in East Jerusalem and so Mr. Regev’s argument that the national government could do nothing is complete BOLLOCKS.

Thirdly – So what! If you push a people off their land and then begin settling the remaining land that they have left and then announce that you are having a temporary moratorium on new building this is merely refraining from behaving badly not something to be proud of.

Joe Biden, At last, The U.S. criticises Israel

Joe Biden – At last the U.S. realises the bloody obvious

If someone were to break into Mr. Regev’s house and begin stealing his possessions and then announce proudly that it had stopped stealing from his kitchen this would be an insult.

And that is exactly the point. Israel has deliberately contrived to insult the Palestinians just when talks are due to begin again. The Israelis used to accuse Yassa Arafat of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity but we have seen time and again how, every time that the Israel is manoeuvred into starting talks with the Palestinians, the Israelis begin by spitting in the faces of the Palestinians.

Well done Vice-President Joe Biden for your forthright criticism of Israel. After 60 years it’s a bit late but welcome none the less. However, I wonder whether the United States can maintain the pressure and whether Israel cares.

Crime and Punishment at The Barons Court Theatre

Crime and Punishment

On Friday night I saw a production of Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment by Myriad Productions at The Barons Court Theatre.

The BCT is in the cellar of The Curtain Up pub on Comeragh Road, West Kensington. Just around the corner from Baron’s Court tube. The big pork pies and scotch eggs on the bar were a nice touch and there’s a little restaurant out the back.

The theatre is small. Tiny. The blurb says that it holds sixty people. Perhaps but the impression is of something far smaller. The arches of the cellar are still intact and the stage is a small area in the middle. The audience sit all around the stage and there is not a lot of room. Stage lights hang over your head and an occasional bang from the pub upstairs or raucous laughter from stairs reminds you that you are in a pub. However, the theatre has tremendous atmosphere and immediately.

My first thought was that Crime and Punishment might be quite a challenge for such a small venue but considering that much of the story is based around the inner angst of the main character a small venue aught not to be a problem.

As we entered and sat down, we chatted and noticed that a man sat on a small bed before us. This was Raskolnikov played by James Kingdon. As the play began Raskolnikov revealed himself as a man tortured by the conflict between his high sentiments and the poverty of his circumstances. Much of the story is the raving of Raskolnikov and with the set so sparse and the audience no further away than other actors Kingdom gave a robust performance, maintaining his character and carrying the fantasy.
Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia, is played by Joanna O’Connor who also directs and Christopher Gutmann gives a comic rendition of Dounia’s betrothed, Luzhin, reminiscent of Green Wing’s Alan Statham.

Abridging a novel such as C&P into two hours must be incredibly difficult but, for me, no key moments were missed. One such is the moment when Raskolnikov and the detective, Porfiry played by Christopher Gutmann, are discussing the crime and Raskolnikov asks innocently “Then who did commit the murder?” and Porfiry replies guilelessly: “Why you did”. If anything I thought that the play drifted occasionally and might have been a little more punchy in such a restricted environment.

We emerged into the pub for a couple of drinks before departing and I noticed that the cast were also refreshing themselves. I was impressed to learn that they would be alteranting Crime and Punishment with Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT / TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES (In repertoire)
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky / by Thomas Hardy

Director:    James Baker / Connie Stephens
Cast:           Lucy Fenton, Emma Hay, Robin Holden, James Kingdon, Joanna O’Connor, Jonathan Sanger.

Barons Court Theatre

Myriad Productions Ltd

How bad do Labour and the Tories have to get before you vote Liberal?

Gordon doesn't come close

In the past, when people discuss which party they will vote for in Great Britain they often consider voting Liberal but then dismiss this as a wasted vote. The logic is that they quite like the Liberals but that they wont get in. A similar argument is made that the Liberals are “too nice” and so will not have the ability to get into government.

These people are TALKING BOLLOCKS!

Twenty years ago The United Kingdom had two main parties plus the Liberals and a smattering of others. The two main parties had opposing ideologies and the vote was broadly split between them. However, Tony Blair transformed the Labour Party from a left leaning semi socialist party into a Tory convert. Margaret Thatcher believed in privatisation because she thought that nationalised industries naturally inclined to inefficiency and that the power of the market keeps private enterprise on it’s toes.
Tony Blair believed in privatisation because he had seen that this strategy had worked for Thatcher. Tony Blair understood nothing. He believed fanatically in privatisation the same way that a convert becomes bound up with the rules and not the spirit of their chosen religion. The same way that ex-patriots fein obsession with the minutia of their home county.

The result is that we now have two capitalist parties fighting over the same vote.

Both Labour and the Tories have shown themselves to be corrupt and despicable and Labour have shown themselves to be incompetent.

Of course Liberal MPs have been involved in the expenses scandal and, I believe, do receive financial contributions from non doms. But I believe that in general the Liberals have been more honest and principled than either Labour or the Tories.

The Liberal Democrats were formed from the old Liberal party which in turn was formed from the old Whigs. During the 18th and 19th century the Whigs along with the Tories were the main party of government. The prominent Liberal, Sir William Harcourt said this of the Liberals:

“Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world.”

The Liberals have stuck to their principles. Their policies are not driven by ideology but by traditional British pragmatism. Though they stand for broadly free market economics it was the Liberals who were responsible for creating the welfare state under Asquith and his Lloyd George.

We should also remember that Vince Cable appears to be the only MP who understands economics and has the best chance of digging the UK out of the current mess.

So now, when we go to vote, will we once again vacillate between the two options which you loathe or, will you do what your heart always told you should do: Vote Liberal Democrat.

Oh Christ! – Could Labour get back in?

Old Labour / New Labour no same same

Old Labour / New Labour no same same

The election campaign in the UK seems to have started and it has been a pretty miserable affair. The priority of any new government must be to cut the deficit and this means cutting expenditure or raising taxes (or a mixture of both). However, politicians know that they are unlikely to get elected by telling the pubic the truth so they ar all tiptoeing around the issues while lobbing insults at each other.

The Tories lack of policies has given the public no great reason to vote for them and their lead dropped to around 6%. Then we heard that the deputy chairman of the Conservative party, Lord Ashcroft has non-domicile status and therefore does not pay much UK tax. Mr. Ashcroft has donated large amounts of money to the Tories and has played a major part in their elections strategy. Outrage ensued amongst Labour until it was pointed out that they have their share of spongers such as Lord Paul. However the Tories seem to be suffering most from this because of the tawdry way in which Lord Ashcroft got his peerage. It seems that he was turned down the first time but the little shit was so desperate to be made a Lord that he actually entered into off the record negotiations and gave his word to become a permanent UK resident. He later changed his mind on that of course but by then he had his peerage.

It may seem right that the Tories get attacked for this but we all know that this sort of thing goes on and I would like to remind everyone that it was New Labour who pledged to reform the House of Lords. In practice this reform amounted to doing away with the hereditary principle and promoting the sort of back street dealing that is the traditional path for Life Peers. Lord Ashcrof’s appointment would not have happened if Tony Blair had not made a balls up of House of Lords reform.

This morning we were told that Michael Foot has died. As the media is reporting, Mr. Foot was an old style Labour politicians. A socialist and a man of principle.

The fear now must be that traditional Labour supporters will recall fondly the honestly and integrity of Michael Foot and, in misty eyed desperation, decide that Gordon Brown best reflects those same characteristics. It could be that the electorate hand the government of the country to the very man who betrayed Labour’s principles and plunged the country into the worst mess since Denis Healey was forced to go begging to the IMF in 1976.

Will the New Labour nightmare never end?!