Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Bob "**** the address, give us your money" Geldof breaks his promise to announce a new concernt in aid of the starving millions in Africa. "Its absurd ... that people are dying of want in a World of surplus" has says. Meanwhile, security forces behind the G8 summit, being held shortly in Scotland, are bricking themselves at the prospect of big demonstrations against globalisation.

"The Washington Post has confirmed a former deputy chief of the FBI was 'Deep Throat' - the source who leaked secrets during the Watergate scandal.

Vanity Fair magazine had reported Mark Felt admitted being the source whose identity had been secret for decades.

How long before the excellent movie "All The Presidents' Men" is on telly again?

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Watergate's Deep Throat revealed

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Saw Star Wars Episode III on Saturday evening at MK's massive ski slope branch of Cineworld. Acting is, in parts, a bit wooden, but it does explain the evolution of the characters of the original three movies, which are still better. This movie is essentially a showcase for special effects, where nearly everything you see is computer generated. In fact the 'human' scenes are very short and act mearly as fillers between chunks of special effects - not at all like the originals, but I guess that's hardly surprsing. I'm afraid that Anakin Skywalker's turn to the dark side is rather week and not really believable.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Lorenzo GarianoMy good friend Lorenzo Gariano is shortly to make his final attempt to summit Everest via Tibet. Tragedy struck the team earlier in the month when Slovenian Marko Lihteneker died near the summit. High winds have also delayed their climbing, but so far not a single climber has managed to reach the summit from the South (Nepal) side.

"The BBC has given its controversial new weather map a facelift after complaints it had a south of England bias.

The angle at which viewers see the UK was changed from Saturday morning, but the colours have remained the same.

Good thing too - the first attempt was blatantly biased towards the South. But IMHO its a shame they didn't dump the new design completely and go back to the symbols.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | New BBC weather map gets facelift

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

The sixth series of 'Big Brother' is shortly to kick off on UK television with the contestants (I prefer to see them as inmates) being forced to live in a house with transparent walls, and hence no privacy.

"...a rival broadcaster is launching a 'public spirited' attack on reality TV by offering £70,000 to Big Brother contestants if they refuse to speak during the 11-week series.

Satellite network UKTV said its prize was an attempt to 'diminish the amount of mindless drivel generated by the deluge of reality TV shows'.

My sentiments exactly.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | Transparent house for Big Brother

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Bletchley Park EnigmaPhotography assignment today at the launch of a new SMS text information request service at Bletchley Park, home of the code breakers during WWII. Visitors send key words to a web bot via SMS message and then visit a website on their return home, or to the classroom, where the system presents information related to the keyword or words they sent.

Friday, 20 May 2005

"The US military says it is investigating 'aggressively' after a picture appeared in a British paper showing Saddam Hussein half naked.

The Sun newspaper's [might have guessed] front page image showed the former Iraqi president in a pair of white underpants.

Other pictures showed Saddam Hussein washing his trousers, shuffling around and sleeping.

Obviously the Sun hasn't learnt any lessons from the Mirror/Piers Morgan debacle in terms of angering the locals, and publishes images regardless of the consequences such actions might have on the British troops in-country.

"The US said the photos appeared to breach Geneva Convention rules on the humane treatment of prisoners of war."

Oh, so the US is concerned about the Geneva Convention now, is it? Conveniently forgotten about Camp Xray have you?

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Saddam underwear photo angers US

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

"Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has admitted for the first time there would be a 'problem' if France votes against the EU constitution.

But he said ... a French 'no' might not kill the treaty.

Oh, come on, get real Jack - its only the French and German governments who really want it.

BBC NEWS | Politics | French no vote 'problem' for UK

"A police constable who reached 159mph on a motorway has been cleared of speeding and dangerous driving.

In reaching his verdict, [District Judge] Mr Morgan noted that two police officers who gave evidence for the prosecution, including West Mercia Police's senior driving instructor, had declined to classify the defendant's driving as dangerous.

159mph. Not dangerous. Mmm, have to remember that.

BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | 159mph speeding charge Pc cleared

Monday, 16 May 2005

Got some photos of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, today on his visit to the Caldecotte Project in Milton Keynes, which is a centre for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. But do you think I could get any of the national papers to take an interest? No, not a single reply.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

After the holiday, what do we think of Austria, and would we go again?
Well, Austria is without doubt one of the nicest countries I have ever visited. It is just amazingly clean: no litter, no vandalism, no grafiti, no yobbos. Britain should certainly be taking a long hard look at the place, because it was pretty depressing to come back home. Lots of stunning scenery, lots of things to see and do. Excellent public transport network. Not too expensive. Food and beer both excellent. Very friendly locals, most of whom have a decent knowledge of English (although I was able to exercise my school German).

Would I go on an all-train holiday again? Probably not - the loss of four whole days getting to and from the final destination was just too much for me and not interesting enough to make it worthwhile.

Given that, and all the problems we had, would I recommend Great Rail Journeys as a holiday vendor? Well, I think I would for several reasons. Firstly, the holiday was pretty good value, since it included pretty much all of every excursion, the guide was very efficient (thanks, Patricia), the hotel was simply outstanding. Unfortuntately we had a fair share of problems along the way, but none were down to Great Rail. The other members of the group were great company and they made me, travelling alone, very welcome - cheers to our team of comedians, singers and the like! I would definately consider travelling to Austrian again, perhaps even to the same town, although maybe at a different time of year, as we found quite a few places were closed.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Friday 13th, as someone mentions; other group members poo-poo it. We shall see. Poor night's sleep - one pillow syndrome again. Get caught by strike of Belgian train staff (turned out to be for a pretty stupid reason too) for two hours just outside Brussels (this is getting to be a habit). Great Tain Journeys reluctant to get coaches layed on for us and another group who happen to be on the same train. Eventually got onto next running communter train, but the closer we get to Brussels Midi, the more people get on. Ended up surrounded by luggage and passengers and very nearly couldn't get off before train goes on to next station. Missed two returning Eurostar trains, but eventually leave about five hours late. Handily miss London rush hour on return; get home about 20:00.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Start of journey home - very long journey. First train much nicer DB express than the Italian train on the way down. Get in to Cologne about 17:00. Meant to go out to get photos of Cologne cathedral but fell asleep. Nice 3-course dinner but the hotel, same as one on journey down, not as good as that in Jenbach, even though its 4-star. Business hotels are so impersonal in comparison to the excellent Jenbacherhof, which is family run.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Last, free day, which I'd already decided was going to be for a long walk up to Achensee lake and back. Best weather of the week. Followed similar route to yesterday, but did find some of what I think must have been one of the map routes, which turned out to be a cycle path (with street lights all the way along - don't think they would have survived if in the UK). Walked up to church at Eben which is highest point on rack railway route, but turned around there and returned. Must have gained at least 1000m altitude - quite a climb. Got back to hotel too early and hence a bit of a wasted afternoon.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Slept like log. Decided to not go on the group's organized trip to Innsbruch. Breakfast at 08:00. Raining lightly again. Tried to find the starts of walks shown on the provided map but none were signposted. Returned to hotel and tried other walks later in day. Managed to find some paths and saw our little rack train whilst having lunch.

Monday, 9 May 2005

Another day almost ruined by the weather. Visit to Krimml waterfall - allegedly the fifth highest in the world - nice too see but very drizzly rain so photos not very good. Then to Zellamsee, but too much time given, especially with the rain. Last town on return to Jenbach was the most interesting. Tyrolean evening entertainment with 6 dancers in national costume. Got roped into a Waltz with another from our group - avoided breaking any more toes, mine or otherwise. Good time was had by all. Went to bed with a cracking headache.

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Another good sleep; brecky at a very lazy 09:00. Steam rack railway trip to join short boat cruise on Achensee Lake which is above Jenbach. Big lunch, for a change, in the two hours before the boat back. Quite a lot of sunshine but then heavy snowfall as we waited for boat. Back to hotel by 17:00.

Saturday, 7 May 2005

Slept well. Up at 07:30 for breakfast. Sun came out, so set off for the station early to make the most of it. Got photos of our double-headed, steam-powered train preparing for our trip to Mayerhofen. Again many places appear to be closed as we are in transition period between skiiing and summer holiday periods. Went swimming again on return. Excellent evening meal again, followed by quiz with people from both Great Rail Journeys' groups. Our table came out joint 4th or 5th.

Friday, 6 May 2005

Much more civilised 07:45 rise. All-day coach excursion to villages Alpbach, Kufstein and Rattenburg. Stayed a little too long I thought in each: I'm not one for window shopping. Went for a swim in the hotel pool just before dinner and managed to kick a step in bare feet on the way in. Thought that I'd broken a toe. Another excellent 4-course dinner. Joined other members of our group after.

Thursday, 5 May 2005

06:00 wakeup call to kick off the second leg of our voyage: two very long trips ahead of us, but their expresses do travel very fast. DB (German national railways) train from Cologne to Munich then a rather scruffy (BR sort of level) Italian train from their to final destination of Jenbach in Austria. Lots of rain: weren't able to see anything of Munich during the 40-minute stopover. Arrived Jenbach just before 17:00 - very nice village from initial impressions, but very steep up to hotel (didn't get this impression from the aerial photo map we'd been sent). Most rooms have balconies. Four course dinner: melon and ham starter, courgette soup, veal escalope, ice cream. More comfortable bed.

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

First day of my Great Rail Journeys holiday to the Austrian Tyrol
Eurostar train breaks down 3 miles outside Brussels Midi station. First engine sent to rescue us doesn't have the right coupling. Have to wait for another Eurostar to push us in. Three hour delay in total. Delayed our connection to Cologne - had just 10 minutes to jump onto the next Thuraya train and had to hunt for seats the length of the train. Ended up in First Class. Got to Cologne way after normal evening meal time so had to settle for something thrown together - but they did a pretty good job considering. Room was very hot overnight, even though it wasn't particularly hot outside - had to use a fan. As seems to be typical of European hotels, only one pillow, plus bed typically hard.