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Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Excursion

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Image “Holiday” courtesy Salvatore Vuono

They’re back from their holiday
Brown from the sun
And refreshed by that newness around
When society’s hum
Has no power to make glum
There’s a strange sort of peace to be found

As tourists not actively
Part of that land
They had travelled quite ghostly, of course
Drifting unseen to most
Being largely engrossed
In a one way connection perforce

And now they are home again
Things somewhat strange
For a while till their memories adjust
And the ones of that place
Find a niche in a space
Where the snapshots of time gather dust

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Stilled life

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A quiet street in Pompeii – image thanks to Paul Vlaar (from Wikipedia)

I tempted Vesuvius to no avail
It stayed quietly sleeping
While I stood there peeping
Down into its crater
With face somewhat pale

Pompeii, a city by its ash entombed
With stones flying, falling
Death came swiftly calling
The remnants in silence
Now tell of those doomed

Slaves sold at the hardware store, tools to be used
Mosaics, frescoes, showing
The temple, bar, knowing
Roads, houses, shops, gardens
Scars* of those abused

I left filled with memories: Fires down below
The frozen life grasping
As fumes left them gasping
Those Romans so gifted
Cruel times long ago.


*The word “scars” refers to vulgar Roman graffiti on the walls of rooms in the brothel at Pompeii

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Holiday Blues

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Image “Traveling World” courtesy Francesco Marino

Some long for holidays abroad
Escape from daily grind
And weather that just can’t behave
Mind numbing when combined

Bags bulging with the things one needs
Those one takes anyway
One joins the thousands moving off
The exiting melee

Off to some place with sand and flies
And temperatures that climb
To some height quite unbearable
Though with views most sublime

Off to some place that’s green and lush
Where tourist class hotels
Leave often much to be desired
And food tastes as it smells

Off to some place with people who
Just see one as a clown
A walking bankroll to be fleeced
And quickly then leave town

Off to some place where friendly smiles
Are all they really own
Where all is not as it appears
Corruption’s on the throne

Off to some place where all’s perfect
Where one would wish to stay
Too soon it’s time to head on back
The price one has to pay

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Holiday notes

Southern England, weather’s fine
Sun burns down; hands intertwine.
Smiles turn seaward, kissing lips
Wafting smells of fish and chips.

Bournemouth beaches, spick and span
Loose clad bodies yearn a tan.
Two feet up and two feet down
Joined to legs both smooth and brown.

Fat and thin, all in between
Young and old upon the scene.
Pub or café, restaurant
Thirst and hunger really taunt.

High teas, sandwiches and cakes,
Tea or coffee, pleasant breaks.
Ploughman’s lunches, scones with jam
Clotted cream and roast of lamb.

Cornish pasty, Shepherds pie
Served up warm they’re worth a try.
Tea with crumpets, milk to taste
Beer that comes in pints with haste.

Days away from calling sand
Four wheels to the hinterland.
Castles, churches, big ones too
Lots to see and lots to do.

Standing stones near Salisbury
Built to some strange recipe.
Green hills rolling ever on
Hedgerows guarding what’s been won.

Gardens laid with loving care
Plants and trees from everywhere.
Man and Nature hand in hand
Creation not just on demand.

More, I know, that I could tell
But no time to longer dwell.
Home is just a week away
While the sun shines, let’s make hay.

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In and away

Yes holidays are here again,
less sleep with lots to do,
sightseeing, eating food that’s strange,
and hearing words so new.

The weather looks like being fine
with sun and not too warm,
much better than that nearer home
with at times rain or storm.

We’re travelling by bus this time.
Our chauffeur is our guide.
One knowing that place inside out,
without one by his side.

Each day there is a trip arranged
to fulfil hopes and dreams.
With menu on which pleasure’s high
joy’s guaranteed it seems.

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Royal flush

The thirtieth of April is a national holiday in the Netherlands to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.

Queen’s day approaching Friday next
and feverish endeavor
by those who walk on fluffy clouds
turns all to Never-Never.
Security a blemish on
what otherwise should be
a peaceful celebration of
this bordered unity.

Cracks now appear in sculpted forms
worked by those hands of old
to protect from all enemies
and now from some too bold.
Horizons whither, ideas bloom
so fresh, unheard before
while pageantry still nods and waves
within that frayed décor.

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As driving a car in unfamiliar places is increasingly likely to bring on panic attacks, I don’t do it any more. So to get away from it all, my wife and I usually throw ourselves into a package holiday. During our stay in Apulia this meant that we found ourselves for a time each day sitting in a touring car heading to and from or some place of historic or picturesque interest.
We often sleep badly on holiday even though we always take our own cushions with us to reduce the odds. This affliction occurs mainly because when we finally do get to sleep we proceed to loudly imitate forest creatures both large and small. Of course, the consumption of the unmissable bottle of wine the evening before also encourages this nightly ritual. So most mornings, after a large, filling breakfast and as soon as the bus (let’s call it that for simplicity) began to roll, we predictively fell asleep and were fated for much of the outward journey to undergo nodding absences interspersed with periods of willed attention.
Our enthusiastic female guide was always armed with lots of historical background information and amusing anecdotes which she told to the mostly attentive audience as we trundled through the Apulian countryside, shunted through small towns and villages, or sped humming over motorways. Of course, she must have viewed the few inattentive, sleeping passengers with a mixture of sympathy and frustration. When I did return to consciousness I often caught her looking at me with a blank, but what I assumed was an accusing, expression. Well, that’s life.
The motorways in Italy, which allow a less attractive means of seeing the countryside and its inhabitants but are often unavoidable in getting from A to B, have recently gained another unattractive feature in the form of prostitutes. These can be seen dotted along the secondary roads that run parallel to the main highway, sitting waiting for clients at the entrance to huge plantations of olive trees. Dressed in revealing brightly colored exaggerations often trimmed off with Marge Simpson hairdos, they contrast remarkably with the surroundings. This appears to be a real problem in Italy as these young ladies, mostly from far away and often apparently exotic locations, are enticed to come to this fair land with stories of exciting modeling contracts. They end up, however, being forced to undergo a drastic career change before they’ve even had a chance to say cheese. It seems that for every one “rescued” from the criminals that exploit them two more come in her place – a tragic, sad reality of modern times.
Then there are the toilets. It’s almost impossible to find a complete and clean one outside hotels and posh restaurants. It seems that either toilet seats are being stolen at an alarming rate or that the owners are removing them before they can be stolen. Perhaps they end up at a toilet branch of the Mafia that resells them or on the walls of eccentric collectors. It seems that the woman’s toilets often suffer the same disgrace. Even in public conveniences with personnel, leaving a tip is often voluntary, probably as an apologetic gesture to foreigners with wet feet and bacterially infested extremities.
I’m in two minds about the view of Italian café owners with regard to payment. If one orders at the bar, which a lot do because its cheaper, then one has to pay before one receives one’s wares. For non Italian-speaking visitors this is a tricky business as often one cannot simply point because the cash-desk is often at the opposite end of the room to the food bar. The easiest way is to sit at a table and await the attentions of a waiter, though one must then pay a surcharge for this added comfort.
Anyway, Italians are hard-working, self-effacing, sincere, polite people who don’t put on airs and graces of grandeur. Eating in Italian cafes or restaurants is like eating in someone’s home. Indeed, at one small but very pleasant restaurant we visited for lunch, we were jovially and expertly served by the whole family including the children, while a pair of traveling musicians serenaded us through an open window after receiving a modest sum from one of our more jubilant companions. When the delicious meal was over, and lead by our guide, the family was treated to a resounding applause – a memorable moment.

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The region is noted for the production of olive oil and olive trees dominate the landscape to tight and left as one drives through rolling hills and valleys with the Adriatic never far away.
Italy, as someone said, is just one great big museum and although Apulia’s historical buildings are perhaps less overwhelming than those in other regions, there is much of interest.
One gifted fellow of the region was Frederick II who as Holy Roman Emperor ruled over an area including Germany, Italy, Sicily and Burgundy around the beginning of the thirteenth century and had his seat in the region. History records that he spoke six languages, was a scientist, mathematician and artist and wrote poetry and music. He also took part in one of the crusades which no doubt brought him into contact with Arabian philosophy.
He appears to have been acquainted with the “secret” knowledge of the mysterious order of the Knights Templar. He built a most intriguing castle in Apulia called Castel del Monte

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Castle del Monte

around 1240, which is shrouded in mystery. Numerologists have had a field day studying the layout: there is the recurrent use of the number eight (external perimeter of the courtyard, shape and number of towers). Indeed, it appears to be full of symbolic meaning and then there is its uncertain destination. Although the inside has been destroyed partly due to vandalism there are intriguing leftovers such as the doors, made of a softer composite stony material called breccia corallina that could never have remained in tact for long without constant repair. Their were originally three levels connected by winding stairways. There is no moat or drawbridge, features normally associated with castle strongholds.
A fuller description can be found here
No documentation has survived concerning its construction except for a tantalizing short note written by Frederick to someone saying that it must be hurriedly finished for some event (not described). It might just have been used for recreational purposes – perhaps an extremely elegant hunting lodge. No one knows for sure thus far.
Our guide told us that the castle stands over a network of underground streams which some believe emit strange forces. There are four mysterious circles to be found in one of the rooms on the ground floor which are perhaps a sort “beam me up, Scotty” device (transport mechanism for those unfamiliar with Star Trek). If one stands within them one is supposed to feel lighter or heavier. I believe I did, though auto-suggestion is also a strong force. Anyway, it was a strange and thoughtful experience and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
As I mentioned above olive oil is a major product of the area accounting for seventy percent of the nations needs and there is a large export market. When not crushing olives the factories involved crush other products of nature of which Apulia has a rich assortment due to its warm, humid climate and rich soil. Apparently good olive oil is expensive because of the processes involved so don’t choose the cheapest when you’re buying.
I like Italy, partly because in its cities, as well as small towns and villages, one can still find lots of delightful small, personalized shops, cafes and businesses with generally helpful enthusiastic owners and staff. For many European countries these have long been lost to supermarket chains and mass-producing factories. Although Italy has these too, smaller businesses are still thriving, though one wonders for how much longer. Hopefully a lot longer.

Another link to Caste del Monte

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Well, just to liven things up a bit again I thought I’d tell you something about where I’ve been while the computer was having its makeover (it just smiled contentedly).
My companion and I took a week’s holiday in Apulia, Italy which is in the southeastern corner of that fair land – at the back end of its “boot”. We were part of a group of thirty eight rather elderly folk heading for new horizons (please don’t sigh!). Although we’d been in Italy before we hadn’t been this far south. The trip was memorable in many ways.
As everyone knows, holidays are not supposed to be too relaxing.
We had to miss a night’s sleep to take a two hour bus trip to an airport across the border in order to catch an early flight there. This was obviously meant to cut the travel organization’s costs, as airport tax and that sort of thing are apparently cheaper there.
We had a transfer in Rome, which was rather exciting as they changed departure gates at the last minute, before finally arriving at the small but pleasant Bari airport late the same morning.
Not that it often occurs, but when transferring from one aircraft to another at the same airport I have a nagging worry that my baggage might be thrown into the wrong one and arrive at a different final destination than myself, perhaps even ending up in some dark corner where the contents gradually turn to dust or becoming distributed amongst the local needy or greedy. Imagine ones carefully chosen undergarments disintegrating or being stretched out of all recognition!
Anyway, all our travel companions, whether embellished with wheels or feet, arrived safely and after another hour’s journey by bus we finally set our extremities on the floor of our hotel’s reception area. It was a remotely situated hotel forming part of a holiday enclave with privately owned holiday accommodations sprinkled around. It was beautifully laid out with luxurious Mediterranean plants and trees everywhere, including palms of course. Abnormal facilities might include archery, five-side-football and a small train to take one to the sandy Adriatic beach around three hundred meters away. It was the end of the summer season so many facilities were either behind cobwebs, disappearing inside those being spun or sadly empty. The well stocked bar, which was open all day, got the most attention from our lot and provided enough recreation. A few even dared to immerse their variously proportioned bodies in one of the swimming pools to the delight of the bronzed attendant who largely had nothing to do but polish the life-vests and strut around showing his muscles.
After a too hasty though filling breakfast, we were picked up each day by a touring car that brought us to places of cultural, historical and scenic interest, usually all at once. Our jovial, authoritative and enormously enthusiastic female guide was an Art Historian and Archaeologist and a leading expert on the area so that meant lots of info and hurrying up. I won’t bore you with descriptions of churches – one place had forty for the twenty thousand inhabitants – and tales of Popes and the clergy who, in general, spent much of their time on their knees often while cowering before heavily weaponed relative heathens.
There were places that especially evoked the harshness of older times: The small, dark but cozy and conically shaped “Trullo” houses of Alberobello built of stone and slates without mortar, some of which are still lived in today. The cave dwellings of Matera that were hacked out of the soft stone forming the steep slopes of a gorge which splits the town in two and were inhabited into the nineteen fifties.
According to information received, an important purpose of these “primitive” dwellings was to avoid paying un-payable taxes to inhuman overlords who somehow couldn’t find a way to convince those above them that these abodes fell into the housing class.
As we all know, medieval times in Europe were not known for their leisurely and tranquil nature. Facts melt into legends. One particularly evil ruling bastard of the period – it seems that every town worthy of a name had one – apparently liked to shoot arrows down from a tower into the headdresses of women working below. Though this seems insane enough, he was apparently also cross-eyed so that arrows often fell in other lethal places. The locals eventually managed to gather enough courage to send him where he had long deserved to go. Let’s hope the little devils that now plague him are also cross-eyed :-)Yes, like most places in Europe, the area has been royally abused over the millennia by many, many races and their armies jostling for a place in the history books and not caring much how they did their abusing or what the local people thought about their lack of courtesy. The general red color of the extremely rich soil could quite easily be partly due to earlier spilled blood, me thinks.
The area has apparently been overrun by Ancient Greeks, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Byzantines, Normans, Germans, Spanish, Turks, Venetians, French ( I may have missed a few) until in 1861 it became part of Italy.
I saw Turkish cannon balls three feet wide that were used to attack this coast in an attempt to overrun Europe together with the Moors. They obviously meant business and though the local people suffered enormously under their cruelty their expansion plans were eventually thwarted by those who obviously had a strong aversion to smoking hookahs, praying five times a day and giving up alcoholic beverages.
Many works of art have been destroyed by those who came along and for whatever reason didn’t take a shine to the works of earlier periods, generally making a mess of the careful and dedicated aesthetic explosions of those who are probably still turning in their graves.
Next time on to more pleasant things.

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My computer, an aging desktop model, is going away for a week. It was all rather sudden but it had to get away it said, otherwise it couldn’t guarantee being able to blog any more because it wasn’t feeling all that well.
How does it speak to me? Through emails of course, doesn’t yours?
So anyway, rather reluctantly I said okay though I’m sure my sour expression spoke book loads, even though I quickly added a smile of compassion.
It’s going to a recuperation center where it’ll be cleared of all toxins and other bits and bobs lying around inside its hard discs. It also needs a good rubbing down (massage it calls it, can you imagine?) to clear away the dust and other unsavory remains of the last six months.
It hopes it hasn’t caught any viruses because that might put a real damper on the proceedings. It knows I do everything within my power to keep it healthy though apparently it doesn’t rate my power too highly, especially as I still refuse to invest in a new firewall to replace the Windows one which it looks on with disdain and mistrust. I’ve tried to explain that the modem has a firewall of its own and that I’ve had bad experiences with those I’ve tried but that doesn’t seem to satisfy it. Well, I’m satisfied and it seems to have accepted the stalemate, at least for the time being.
When it comes back all shiny and irritably refreshed I expect the bickering will start again.
I have a notebook (well, actually, I’m not its true owner as it keeps telling me) but after a long discussion – it does so go on – it refuses to take over the blogging job because it says it doesn’t have the necessary know how and doesn’t trust me to set things up correctly even if it would consider it. Irritable little twerp! It even threatens switching itself off if I try to log in! Can it really do that?
I hope your “comrades” are more accessible than my tormentors. Perhaps it’s just an age thing.
Well, I know it’s all a shock but I promise I’ll be back in business as soon as possible.

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Up and away

Well, I’m off on a short holiday to restore the juices. I’ll be back on the 27th May, so make a note in your diaries 🙂
In the meantime may the force be with you all.
Oh, and for any potential thieves, we have a seven foot gorilla watching the house.
P.S.
His strapping family members have arrived now as well.

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I don’t like flying, not anymore. There was another crash in Holland last week. I know the airlines say it’s safer than driving a car on the highway or crossing a busy street where a lot of frustrated drivers live, but this assurance just doesn’t have that comforting an effect on me it used to. Even airlines are having to make sacrifices these days to keep their companies running, so one gets to wondering about things like maintenance and unsatisfied employees doing their best but whose hearts may not be entirely employed on the job. There is, after all, an official black list of airlines that almost guarantee crashes, perhaps designed to attract those passengers who prefer to live dangerously such as racing drivers, stuntmen and traffic wardens.
Something that has always amused me is that there is an association of pilots here and its longstanding chairman went by the name of Mr. Brick. It’s really true! He has another function now I read but is still closely associated with the airline industry. That he was never forced to change his name I cannot understand, though perhaps any who could have enforced such a decision just wanted to keep the joke alive.
There’s a frighteningly evident “no escape” aspect to flying. In an aircraft one sits with ones life totally in the hands of someone else who, one must assume, is completely in control of an enormously complicated and enormously heavy machine that is trying to stay aloft against all odds. Once on board one gets a quick lesson by some bored cabin attendant (it’s the three hundred and sixty fifth time they’ve given it) on what to do in an emergency.
It is assumed that a reasonable soft landing on water or on land is possible, which no one on board really believes. If one were to ask the average passenger if they felt at home with the escape procedure they would almost certainly just look at you in an unbelieving fashion. Most have heard the same story so often they don’t even bother to take notice, if indeed they ever did, and there’s always someone mumbling about it being pointless anyway.
There are lots of things that work against an orderly escape from a crashed aircraft, even if one does eventually remember how to attach and inflate ones life-vest and those of one’s flailing, screaming children or others.
There is panic fanned by the fight for survival, claustrophobia and disorientation.
There’s the damage incurred by the unusual features of rapid descent such as luggage and other debris flying around, both animate and inanimate.
There is the probable extra damage caused by impact with the surface which does tend to add insult to injury in no uncertain manner.
There is the inability of passengers to free themselves from their seats when packed in like sardines. This especially applies to overfull holiday flights where ones knees are often but six inches (9 centimeters) from an anus in front, even if they can achieve a ninety degree relation to the hips, and one sits closer to complete strangers than one normally does to even one’s loved ones at home.
Considering the safety aspect, it remains a fact that one always sits facing the wrong direction in an aircraft. Of course, the airline companies are aware of this and I’ve heard their arguments about the psychological impact of sitting backwards, but it is physically safer to do so. One then has the stool’s help in cushioning any blow that would tend to propel the body or its parts to the front of the aircraft.
One would think that having parachutes available might give one an added feeling of safety but this seems not to be a good idea, partly due to the psychological stress of suggesting the possibility of one having to use one to get out in a hurry, but also due to other practical considerations. At the height and speed that modern jets fly one wouldn’t survive long anyway by jumping out with a parachute. One would either be seriously damaged by the sudden blast of air, which though thin would meet one at a tremendous relative speed, or by the freezing cold and lack of breathable air. At lower levels though, it might just be feasible to take the plunge, so I’d personally still prefer to have one available.
An extension of this idea would be to have aircraft interiors that are really life sustaining pods that can be released in emergencies and can descend on enormous parachutes with a push of some button, ideally placed on my arm rest. This doesn’t seem to have been high on the priority of aircraft designers or their bosses though, so I suppose the costs involved do put a sort of price on human life.
So, to summarize, once one gets into an aircraft (with the intention of taking off) one is stepping into a potential coffin that might or might not be the final one. If cremation is preferred then it might be comforting to know that aircraft are often quickly engulfed in intensely hot flames when they “land unexpectedly”.
Give me my car, trains, buses or boats any day. They can also make a mess of things when they suddenly do things they shouldn’t, but they are at least already on the surface and don’t have to fall a long way before doing them, which is for me an important advantage.

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