grumpytyke:

It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on menstonvillagewharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

View original 821 more words

It’s a while since I managed to write a post here, and even longer (about a month) since I was able to pay close attention to the many excellent blogs I follow. The same has been true of my other (photo) blog, grumpytykepix. It’s been due to a combination of diversions:

  • getting a new website/blog ‘live’ for my employer;
  • getting embroiled in a campaign fighting inappropriate development in the village in which I live, which has revealed at best incompetence in the local (Bradford) council, at worst possible corruption – all this as part of authoring a WordPress blog for my village;
  • being commissioned to author a column in a local weekly newspaper covering forthcoming events in my village and a nearby small town, Otley (yesterday was the fifth appearance);
  • being diverted by a wonderful 88 year old lady who telephoned me to ask whether her family history might be interesting for an article in the paper (it’s fascinating!).

Fewston (Washburn Valley, Yorkshire) Marriages

I’m not ready yet to reveal the identity of my octogenarian or say much about her but so far the story has taken me to a local museum, a local cemetery and consumed hours of searching archives, such as the one pictured, on internet. As a result I’ve managed to identify some of her ancestors back to 1829, which has been a delight to her. But I still have many leads to follow up.

She is concerned that her memory is failing and as she is ‘last of the line’ the family history will die with her unless it is set down. Being last of the line and living alone she is also rather lonely, so an excuse to visit her once a week with the latest ‘tidbit’ is just what was needed, not to mention the glass (or more) of ‘Croft’s Original’ she insists on plying me with; fortunately she lives only a few minutes walk from me, so no driving.

Eventually her story will certainly make a post, or more, on this blog; a page, or more, on the village blog; possibly a feature in a local paper or magazine; and even maybe a book which I’ll gladly ‘ghost’ for her.

I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

http://www.gandul.info/news/why-don-t-you-come-over-raspunsul-gandul-la-campania-britanica-nu-veniti-in-anglia-update-10528548

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems.

Your weekly rent covers a month here – pub nights included

Our Tube was not designed with sardines in mind – sorry sardines

Our newspapers are hacking celebrities’ privacy, not people’s phones

Our air traffic controllers have seen snow before. They were unimpressed

We don’t have a congestion charge here. We believe congestions are punishment enough.

Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water.

And my favourite – almost absolutely true:

Half our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.

Most of my followers will know I have a serious love affair with Romania and Romanians and the majority of Romanians coming here so far are very well educated, hard-working and an enormous benefit to our society. But this doesn’t mean my eyes are closed to the problems: corruption is endemic (but worse in Bulgaria) and certainly a large number of Romanians coming here have come to commit crime and will do so in the future (the Romanians would say that they are not Romanians, but gypsies, and while I cannot support this racist statement there is an underlying truth).

So, much as I love Romanians and their country, the concern about freely opening the door to them is well-founded.

But it will be great for Britain to have a boost to the population of people who can actually speak English!

I’m about half way in drafting the promised post on my disappointment with what Britain has become – basically since Tony Blair became prominent on the scene (until which time I was a life-long Labour supporter). I guess it’s going to get me into quite a bit of trouble with many people, but perhaps not as it’s likely not that many people will read it.

I’m prompted to find time to complete it by many recent events, among which:

  • being told I could not take photographs of my teenage nephew playing football;
  • my subsequent weekend in Germany where I freely took pictures in a children’s playground full of children and their parents without complaint (I have put just one, of my grandson on my classic camera/film ‘photo’ blog – grumpytykepix);
  • children taken away from foster parents because they were members of UKIP (I am not, by the way, a UKIP supporter in general);
  • looking through a recent GCSE maths paper and finding I could do the first five questions in my head in less than a minute (I haven’t ‘done’ maths for over 50 years);
  • Bradford metropolitan council’s insistence on allowing hundreds of new houses to be built in an area which simply cannot support them (in fact almost anything Bradford Council has done in the past two decades);
  • the appalling treatment of elderly people in the NHS;
  • the increasing ‘regulation by tick box’ in vital areas like care and education;
  • the appalling fall in journalistic standards, in general but particularly at the BBC (and the schoolboy antics introduced into many otherwise interesting and ‘serious’ programmes);
  • … there are a few more.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll succeed to do a post or two on more enjoyable things, like food and cooking – especially as I’m really keen to try a couple of recipes (onion soup and a chocolate cake) on one of my favourite ‘cookery’ blogs (actually more than that), ‘My French Heaven’.

I am not by nature a city dweller, I much prefer rural life. However, it has been a real pleasure to return briefly to the city where I lived, and taught English, for several years in Romania. The city is Iasi (pronounced ‘Yash’ – in Romanian the ‘s’ has a comma under it, rather like a cedilla, and so has the sound ‘sh’), which is a major city in north east Romania with the country’s oldest University.

Fountain in the Palas Mal park, Iasi, with the Culture Palace museum in the background

One of the pleasures of living in Iasi was that artistic culture was very much alive and to share in it cost very little, but the downside was that many of the facilities were very run down. Today, many of the buildings are being renovated, some almost complete. The building in the background in the picture above is ‘Palatul Culturii’ (The Palace of Culture), in fact a museum. The Romanians cleverly allowed a developer to build an enormous shopping mall, together with a delightful park (pictured below), only on condition they undertook the renovation of the museum building, an enormous and incredibly costly project. It is now almost completed.

Entrance to the Palas Mal park, Iasi

When I visited the park, complete with carousel, it was full of families with young children, courting couples, older couples, all looking happy and contented in a green and colourful environment despite the severe drought which has made much of Romania look like a desert. (When I left Romania in 2004, this area was also a desert of waste ground). Looking up through the pierced copper roof of a cupola on a lake in the park, seeing the ‘biscuits’ stamped out from the sky, prompted my ‘sky biscuits’ picture haiku, posted on 3 August.

Carousel in the Palas Mal park, Iasi

Nearby is the church of St. Nicholas, which was renovated some year ago. It is the church in which I was married and where I went on many Sundays to listen to the magnificent choir, at Easter, and at Christmas to hear the wonderful Romanian carols.

St Nicholas's church, Iasi (Sf Nicolae Domnesc)

The ‘Filarmonica’ (Concert hall) was almost a ruin when I went every week throughout the ‘season’, a season ticket costing less than £30 for more than 20 concerts! Every five years this included all the Beethoven string quartets performed over several weeks by a magnificent Iasi quartet, ‘Voces’, whose playing reminded me of the renowned ‘Amadeus’ quartet (I have vinyl LPs of the complete cycle played by them at home in UK). Now the concert hall has been renovated and looks magnificent.

The 'Filarmonica' concert hall, Iasi, and poster advertising performances of Shakespear's 'Midsummer Night's Dream'

In the foreground of the Filarmonica a poster advertises Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – outside the nearby ‘Teatru National’ (‘national’ theatre), a smaller version of the theatre in Vienna but just as magnificent now that it is almost completely renovated.

Something which impressed me about Romanian high school pupils – 12 to 18 years old – when I lived here was that I could stop one at random in the street and ask them to quote me a line of Shakespeare and at least 9 in 10, probably 99 in 100, would do it flawlessly, often not one of the most quoted ones. What would the proportion be in the UK? I doubt better than 1 in a 100, if that.

The 'national theatre', Iasi, with street banner advertising opera

Another banner across the whole street outside the theatre advertises opera (and I do not have to remind opera lovers that one of the world’s leading ‘divas’ now – Angela Gheorghiu – is Romanian).

Talking of pupils, below is a picture of one of the three high schools at which I taught English in Iasi – Colegiul National which was founded in 1826 and remains one of the top two high schools in the city.

The 'National College', Iasi

It was becoming twilight when I reached Piata Unirii (Unity Square), which celebrates the unification of the different regions to become Romania in 1859 (Transilvania became a part of Romania in 1918). Dominating the square is another magnificent building – the Hotel Traian.

Grand Hotel Traian, Iasi, at twilight

Nearly ‘home’, I passed by what was the only antique shop in Iasi when I lived here – in what was in the distant past the city’s main street – Str. Lapusneanu. A model galleon in full sail sits in our living room back in the UK; I bought it in this shop, which lights up the wares in its window in the evening.

The antique shop window in Str. Lapusneanu, Iasi, in the evening

Buildings in this street are now being renovated and a gigantic protective cover reminds the people of Iasi what they have and need to protect, as said to them by one of the country’s most renowned historians, Nicolae Iorga, a superb writer, who was assassinated by fascists in 1940.

Protective cover over a building in renovation, with quote from Nicolae Iorga, Romanian historian

“These are our historic monuments, so many, from the beginning until 1850, so full of value both materially and in an historic sense, with their surroundings devasted, with everything destroyed, with the patina of age covering each, so varied and original in which is seen what they were. Where you see it, recognise it, respect it and raise them up, if you have the strength, from the ruin and disappearance”. (My translation, not perfect but hopefully adequate). Nicolae Iorga, 1871-1940.

It’s taken a long time but the rebirth has begun.

All these ‘snapshots’ were taken on a Panasonic GF1 with 14-42mm Lumix G ‘X’ lens. I may be able to get some C41 black and white film (Ilford XP2) developed and scanned here towards the end of next week, but colour and ‘conventional’ black and white will have to wait until I’m back in the UK.

I spent yesterday evening watching the Olympics opening ceremony and, at the same time, sorting out my blog-related emails. Today, I have to settle down to getting everything ready and packed to leave for Romania tomorrow.

I’m not a great sports fan, neither as participant nor spectator, but the Olympics has done something – something good – to Britain. I originally set up this blog to moan about how I found my country on returning after more than ten years absence. Yesterday I went into my nearest city, Bradford, 8 miles away; so depressing – the people in the street look depressed, the main shopping street full of empty shops – and I thought of writing a post about it, the sort of post I envisaged when first I created this blog more than four years ago.

Of course it’s not the fault of the people of Bradford, but that of the politicians – both local and national – who have allowed it to happen. The vast metropolitan authority needs breaking up to allow the local communities to have the local decision-making democracy which David Cameron seemed to promise but now clearly has no intention of delivering.

Part of Bradford’s main shopping street; there are least four dismal, empty, abandoned shops in this picture and many, many more within a few paces

But I also went to Leeds, only 3 miles further; vibrant, colourful, the people in the street look contented, elegant, happy – and I wondered if my initial depression on return to the UK eight years ago was just that I returned to my home city – Bradford. 

Seeing the enthusiasm of the crowds, including the blind and multiple disabled tenants of the charity for which I work, turning out to cheer on the Olympic torch carriers over the past couple of weeks,  it is difficult to remember that Britain has serious problems. Britons need a jolt to jerk them out of the stoic acceptance of bad times, and it seems to me that the Olympics could well provide that from what I have seen so far.

The dedication, perseverance yet wonderful modesty of Olympians like Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins give us all something to aspire to. So, despite my aversion to sporting activity (though I do love to walk), I have high hopes that the 2012 Olympics will provide the jolt to spark a renewal in Britain.

Sorting gmail

As for sorting my emails, Google’s claim that you never need to delete anything and don’t need folders with gmail was beginning to look shaky as, despite labelling, I was increasingly unable to find anything among 563 blog-related emails since I began posting a little over a month ago. An internet search quickly showed how to create folders, so now everything related to likes, follows and comments on my own blog – 216 emails – is in one folder; everything related to other blogs – 347 emails – is now in another folder.

A day of ‘street photography’ debate (with myself only!)

Good intentions to write a blog a day died last week when work and other things took over. So Saturday, due to go to a village gala and subsequent barbecue at friends who live in the village, it seemed a good idea to take up the WordPress weekly photo challenge and attempt some ‘street photography’. Despite declaring a big interest in things photographic I’ve so far written almost nothing about it. Our contribution to the barbecue would give me an opportunity to talk about food.

So, what camera to take? Seemed clear to me I should take film, black and white film at that. Looking at all the street photography through links on the challenge post it was clear that, for me, that black and white provided the most powerful images and those on film appealed most to me.

Some of grumpytyke's film cameras

A lovely Exa with Tessar, a Super Ikonta also with Tessar, a Mamiya Press Super 23, Voigtlander Bessa-T with 35mm Color Skopar, Contax AX and Olympus XA. A few of my ‘little’ collection.

Which camera? The Olympus XA – pocketable, light, the ideal 35mm lens, excellent viewfinder, very unobtrusive. Unfortunately the shutter on mine is playing up so it had to be discounted, and the Minox 35EL with similar attributes is ‘in bits’ while I try to find a similar problem.

For me all the SLRs were ‘out’ – generally too bulky, too noisy, too intrusive.

So it had to be one of the rangefinders (though a Leica M4 exists, till now, only on my wish list). What film did I have?

Well I have a shelf-full of 120 B&W film but the Super Ikonta folder or Mamiya Super 23 are clearly not the tools for this job. I could find only four 35mm – a 36 exposure FP4 cassette, at 125 not really fast enough; a 20 exp Delta 400 – not as many exposures as I wanted; a couple of hundred exposures of XP2 in a bulk loader but couldn’t find any empty cassettes, and almost 50 metres of APX 400 in an unopened pack, which would have been my preferred choice but, again, no cassettes and even if I found some changing the film in the bulk-loader would be a helluva hassle.

So, maybe this time I have to settle for digital; the Lumix GF1 set to B&W, zoom set to 17.5mm (so 35mm equivalent) manual exposure and focus set to hyperfocal distance, provides some of the necessary attributes. I’d be more convinced if it had a conventional viewfinder.

However. I still wanted to go with film so chose the Bessa-T with optical viewfinder in the hotshoe, taking the Delta 400 with the FP4 as back-up (maybe it can be ‘pushed’?).

I took the GF1 as a back-up.

All to no avail. We arrived at the village as the heavens opened; it rained like a power shower for an hour so we sat in the VW camper till we could make it to the barbecue – no parking there so a long walk. Then it rained again so no barbecue – almost everything was cooked in the oven/grill inside.

So no ‘street photography’, at least not in time for this week’s challenge.

Barbecue food, Romanian ‘mici’

One brave soul, my Romanian wife, was determined to have the ‘mici’ she’d made taste authentic so braved the rain and got just enough cover to cook them on the charcoal. As always, these ‘simple’ Romanian barbecue delicacies went down a bomb (as they did when she made them for our Jubilee ‘Big Lunch’ a couple of weeks ago).

Simple? Minced meat mixed with a variety of flavourings – onion, garlic, thyme, coriander, cumin, black pepper and, of course, salt. Traditionally the mince is a mixture of lamb and beef, but my wife won’t eat lamb so she makes it with beef and pork – 60/40% seems to work well. Apart from the unusual spice mix, what makes the ‘mici’ special is they are mixed (hands of course) with some sparkling mineral water (or sodium bicarbonate mixed with ‘juice’ from the meat) which makes them more ‘airy’.

They are rolled into small sausage shapes (keeping hands wet to prevent the mixture sticking) and, when cooked, eaten with slices from a French stick and ‘French’ mustard. Cold beer, gassy continental type, is obligatory (I took the little bottles of French Brasserie Blonde from Aldi – cheap and ideal if you’re driving – low alcohol).

Not surprisingly, few if any Romanians mix up the spices themselves nowadays, they buy a packet. We do the same; we bring a few packets back on each visit or the family post them to us.

Bankers, lawyers and Dickens

Can’t resist a little politics. Did anyone else notice that the politicians in the ‘save the Euro’ discussions seemed more intent on saving, or not losing, face than coming up with any real solutions?

Banking? The latest banking scandal, fixing interest rates, incredibly seems yet again to be greeted with surprise by so many. Dickens was ranting about the financial ‘institutions’ of that day around a century and a half ago and I’ve been saying for about the past 50 years that little has changed.

Of course he was right about the legal professions too and much remains the same.

By any moral standard both remain corrupt.

‘Complain’ – despite the frustrations

I put ‘.’ around the word ‘complain’ because as a senior executive of a private hospital recently pointed out to me (more on this below), it should be regarded as feedback which gives an organisation or person a chance to rectify the error or omission.

The British in particular seem reluctant to bring problems to the attention of those who can do something about it. So some of my neighbours moan to me about a silly little parking squabble but don’t say anything to those who can do something about it. And many moan to me about ‘happenings’ in the NHS but again that’s as much as they do.

Of course, most of the time you will be frustrated and feel you are wasting your time, as I did when after I and my wife had telephoned our local ‘cottage hospital’ – the Wharfedale Hospital – many times to try to cancel an appointment – to be unanswered, cut off or directed to a machine which didn’t take messages. Yet when I finally got through, the receptionist refused to accept what I told her, repeating “But the phone is always answered”.

I was equally frustrated when I ‘complained’ to a large local NHS hospital that my 90 year old mother had been kept on a trolley for 11 hours on admission because, it seems “patients cannot be given a bed until they have seen a doctor and no doctors were available”. Or ‘complaints’ directed to the Chief Executive of our local housing association which are passed down to a ‘customer service manager’, resulting in the usual ‘form’ letter and no action.

This post was originally going to be about how the private hospitals to which we can now be referred by our GPs are just as bad as the NHS ones. This followed a couple of administrative errors from one of them. But I’m pleased to say that this was one of those rare occasions which backed up my contention that you should always ‘complain’.

I sent an email outlining my complaint to the Chief Executive, who was on leave at the time, but it was picked up by another senior director and …

What a difference! The senior director immediately arranged to meet my wife and myself. He explained what had gone wrong, why it had gone wrong, and the measures the organisation had taken to ensure it did not happen again. This was followed up by a letter confirming everything that had been said at the meeting.

Unfortunately I don’t feel able to name the organisation concerned because, in view of the rapid and effective response, I don’t think the original error should be publicised as I first intended.

How often have I thought “I’m going to write about this to the local paper”? Rarely I have done it. However, getting into this new blog has set me off writing again so I actually wrote something and emailed it. Whether it’s published or not is something else. We’ll see. I’ve put them under ‘Ramblings’.

I guess they may not mean very much to someone not local to where I live (beautiful Wharfedale in Yorkshire). But there are some more general political issues and even some links to my interest in food – so I’ve tagged them so.


Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

Neither Sophocles nor Virgil tells us to take care even when they are not! Though Virgil does hint at it:

I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts” (my underline).

So now the Greeks are going to the polls and we are all fearful of the effect of the outcome on our lives. But why?

Why the hell should the misbehaviour of what is, after all, a fairly small, fairly insignificant country in the bigger scheme of things have such consequences?

Well, we’re told it’s the ‘markets’. What does that mean? It means it’s the same irresponsible gamblers – those in the money dealers, those in the banks, those in the whole corrupt worldwide financial system – those who caused the problem in the first place.

That means of course we’re back to the politicians, who fly off to Mexico or sit in video conferences to waffle non-stop, but actually do nothing to deal with the real problem.

If the Greeks are bearing gifts, what are they? A fabulous ancient history, a fascinating ancient literature, a lot of sun on a lovely blue sea, and great music for dancing. It seems they can even play football now and then. But I can’t see anything there which enables them to bring down the whole of modern Europe. But I guess a big, wooden horse looked pretty innocuous at the time.

Maybe it’s the great food! (which gives me a link to the next item).

***

Tournedos Rossini

Yet another picture in a restaurant review of a few grams of food exquisitely arranged on a plate, enough for a sparrow (and complete with the obligatory ‘smear’ left by said sparrow) prompted me to go back 30 or 40 years to give recent dinner guests a main course I had not prepared for several decades – Tournedos Rossini.

But before Bill Oddy and all the other animal rights campaigners have a go at me, have a look at the recipes (under the ‘Food’ menu item).

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