Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’

Some of my friends have blogs too

Yes, my real life friends. Friends I knew outside of my blogging life. They have now started blogging and entered my blogging world. Which is a bit nerve wracking as I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever written about them….! Anyway, they are lovely people with lovely blogs. Check them out…

Ex-colleague and fellow cake-lover, Abbi, at blogthehousedown.com:

“I’ve been counting the calories and even hired a personal trainer. Yesterday was my first session with her.
‘Ah this will be easy,’ I thought, “I’m not in that bad shape.”
Well, I was wrong. Today I woke up and muscles hurt that I didn’t even know existed!…
After hobbling around the bedroom for most of the morning I decided to do something productive that required minimal moving, and so I decided to try out a recipe I found for courgette muffins…
So off I hobbled to the kitchen to embark on my healthy bake…I grated courgette, I measured the skimmed milk, mixed everything together and the little things came out looking pretty good…”

Beware, though, the tasty looking courgette muffins. Pop over to her blog to find out what happens when she tastes these babies!

Next is a friend I’ve known for years through a legal charity we’ve both been involved with at different points. This blog is brand new and full of all the things I spend time thinking about too.

“More 20somethings need to talk about the fact that this can be a terrible decade, discuss why, and throw out some life rafts of useful hope so that we may all survive until our 30s come to the rescue.

The article above – while acknowledging some of the problems of being in your twenties – is a classic example of The Great 20s Myth. This is the myth that your 20s are the best years of your life. Never, we are told, will you be more beautiful, thinner, look better, have more of a wonderful time, have more sex, have more great sex, and meet more wonderful people.

Waldman’s piece is, of course, just one of many things floating around about being in your twenties at the moment. You needn’t read all of the article, just look at the photograph and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It is the doorway to the deception that your 20s are one long sun-drenched, hazy day full of sexy and formative ‘fun’. A group of beautiful, tanned, bambi-limbed friends jumping in the air fuelled, presumably, just by the sheer joy of being alive. They are having the time of their life – of course they are! They’re in their twenties!

No.”

Another blog I enjoy reading is that of two friends that I worked with once upon a time. After we no longer worked together, we remained friends and they recently jetted off for a life under the Colombian sun. Not before a trek across Spain though, stories from which are to be found on the blog. This extract is from a wonderful post about a visit to Anthony’s uncle:

“We walked on further, trudging through the mud. Up in the mountains of San Juan de Rioseca it rains a lot.

‘Look over there,’ he said. ‘That’s the Rio Magdalena.’ The sun caught it at a bend, sending a brilliant flare of light from Colombia’s mighty river to my iris.

We continued walking through the cloud forest, flanked by jungle, toward my uncle Julio’s farm. On the way we passed a tiny, tidy construction site and met Viktor. He was wearing a broad-brimmed hat, wellington boots and a shirt and jeans dirty from the jungle path. A machete hung from his waist. He greeted us with a broad smile. After explaining the plan of the house he walked with us futher into the jungle.

Eventually we arrived at a small house, built by my uncle Gildo and members of the local community 15 years ago. It was there that we met Julio, my unbelievably fit and healthy seventy-nine-year-old uncle, his wife Rosa and perhaps the happiest person I have ever met: my cousin Feniz, who is married to Viktor.”

Next up is an old uni friend, the one we used to call Mum because she took care of us. Her blog is typically her – fashion-conscious and ready to offer food! Check out this snippet from one of her recent posts (I shall need to sort my legs out soon…):

“Now onto some fashion. I am glad that Spring is on it’s way (so they say). With it’s arrival will come some pretty colours and fabrics and less of these harsh, masculine lines we always tend to lean towards in winter.

Ladies! Be proud, be feminine and embrace the fact that the sun is coming out. Only problem is, we will have to up our game with regards to defuzzing our legs…winter hair can be excused, spring hair can NOT! Haha

Enjoy wearing the pastels and bright colours, experiment with layering different fabrics and textures, find a feminine look that suits your personality, I do believe that this look is not just for the “girly girl”.”

Next up, a friend with whom I share a love of honey, funny how little things can get you chatting. He has flown to greener pastures now (East London) but writes fabulously and I can fully recommend his blog. Check it out:

“The first wave of the spring’s sun had come and gone, transforming the landscape into a bleak and seemingly barren prospect as it left. The pull of the river was strong and I was faced with a choice of another day stuck inside grey walls freezing or be under grey skies freezing. A stiff cup of freshly brewed coffee gave me the push I needed. Thirty minutes later I was standing, rather being blown about, outside the Royal Festival Hall. Rain was tickling my face, annoyingly. My mood was being coaxed into better spirits by the wind. The mood was doing it’s best to ignore it. I made my way along the Thames path towards the gate that leads to the steps to the beach by Waterloo Bridge.”

Lastly, a friend who has recently returned to his home country, Ghana. He’s Ghanaian. And he’s Lebanese. And he’s been living in the UK since forever. But… Wait a minute… He’s…. No…

His blog is partly about this identity crisis. Here’s a taster:

“My family decided to take a trip to spend quality time together. We picked a little eco resort close to the Ivory Coast boarder of Ghana next to a town called Axim; I joined them a day after they left by taking a 20 minute internal flight to Takoradi where I was picked up by my brothers.

Upon arrival, I made the short 5 meter walk from the plane to pick up my bag and exit the airport. I flashed my ID to the immigration officer and he waved me through. ”Wait. Stop!” Someone yelled from the back of the office. Here we go.

“Where are you from?”. It took a while for me to realise, amongst all the eyes staring at me, who was speaking to me. It was the head of immigration. “Ghana”, I responded irritatingly. My usual spiel was useless. Everything I said to him was thrown back at me. I am not black and he has never heard of a Ghanaian person with the surname “Mouganie”.”

The shepherd

It’s Rambler5319, my Wednesday guest blogger, with the post for today. Enjoy!

 

When I was a student there seemed to be particular artists and certain pictures that were popular. I’d grown up in a house where art was not talked about except when pictures or sculptures made the news so I didn’t have a favourite artist or picture. However, many fellow students decorated their walls with posters of pictures by Dali (Metamorphosis of Narcissus with its two hands holding the eggs with a flower coming out of one, The Persistence of Memory with its watch faces flopping over tree branch); Turner (The Fighting Temeraire was very popular along with Rain, Steam & Speed); Magritte (Time Transfixed – the train coming out of the fireplace & the man with the bowler hat on with an apple in front of his face) and those impossible pictures by Max Escher (water going downhill which ends up higher than its starting point, men walking on the underside of staircases etc).

 

Check this out and follow the water from the base of the wheel and watch it flowing downhill all the way round and yet it finishes higher than the wheel:

 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee36/AussiEmedia/ART%20Paintings/Maurits%20Cornelis%20Escher/escher2-105_twon_waterfall-detail.jpg

 

And then this one.

 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee36/AussiEmedia/ART%20Paintings/Maurits%20Cornelis%20Escher/escher2-001_twon_ascending-and-desc.jpg

 

How can there be two sets of people ascending and descending the stairs at the same time with different outcomes. Take any corner to start and then follow those going up and see how they end up lower than their starting point. Then go back to the same corner and follow those going down and see how they end up higher than their starting point. Bizarre!

 

Another popular one was the 1559 picture Proverbs by the Dutch painter Pieter Breughel (the Elder). If you fancy trying to spot a few here’s the link:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Bruegel_Proverbs.jpg

 

I’ll start you off by taking you to the bottom left area where you can see a man – “banging his head against a brick wall”. See if you can spot any others. They are Dutch (so you may not know a lot of them) but a number are in use in English so you may recognise those. If you’re struggling, the answers with the part of the picture to which they refer, are here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlandish_Proverbs

 

Anyway that’s just by way of an intro to this week’s topic which is to tell you about one of my favourite pictures of the last 10 years or so. Here it is:

 

image

 

It’s not by an artist as such; it’s a simple postcard size black & white photo. I had seen it many years ago when driving up and down the motorways of the UK. A large version was hung on the walls of one of the motorway service areas on the M6 called Tebay Services. It’s located about 300 miles north of London & 30 miles south of Carlisle on the west side of England. (This picture has since been moved to the Rheged Centre in Penrith. This means it is actually nearer the area where its subject lived.) The service station itself has a very interesting history: it was built in 1972 and is still operated by the farming family (now its second generation) through whose land the M6 motorway was built.

 

However there’s just something about this picture that appeals to me. There is something in its simplicity because of the subject matter. I’m not looking for any deep philosophical meaning here but to me it definitely projects something. I see an old man; I see a weathered face which kind of says it fits with its environment out on the fells of Cumbria; I see strength, determination and years of experience, a shepherd going about his business doing one of those special things that shepherds do – rescuing. (The word shepherd is, as you may know, a contraction of the phrase sheep herder.) I wonder what you see in it? It’s just a shepherd carrying his crook in his left hand with a sheep on his shoulders but it poses an obvious question: since sheep can walk why is he carrying it? Perhaps the sheep was injured and he was bringing it back to the farm to tend to it; perhaps the sheep got separated from the main herd, even lost, and he found it and was bringing it back to the fold as it probably wouldn’t just follow him on its own. Or maybe it was something else. One thing for sure is that the sheep is completely safe. There’s something that says just keep still and you’ll be ok, I’ll get you back, I’ll get you home. Also, if you can, look at how many ‘layers’ the shepherd is wearing – I can see at least 4 and in addition there may be an undergarment. It’s therefore probably a cold part of the year – certainly not summer as the sheep has its full coat.

 

I can tell you that, because of the area farmed by the shepherd in the picture, the sheep is a breed called (Lakeland) Herdwick. Herdwick comes from the old Norse word herdvyck meaning ‘sheep pasture’. Informed sources say that the average figures for the weight of a full grown sheep of this breed are: ewes 77-99lbs (35-45kgs) and rams 143-165lbs (65-75kgs). Now look at that picture again – this guy is carrying a ewe so could easily be about 6-7 stone in weight across his shoulders. Now think about this – with that pure white beard, how old is he and how did he hoist it up there? How would you get an animal, which probably wasn’t keeping still, of that weight, across your shoulders?

 

I know, from what the service station owners told me when I rang them to ask about the picture which wasn’t there last time I stopped for a break, that the guy’s name in the picture was Isaac Cookson. Using a bit of investigative reasoning I worked out (given that it turns out to be quite an unusual name in the census records) that he was born in 1873 in the village (parish) of Bampton a couple of miles NE of Haweswater and about 25 miles NW of Tebay Services.

Haweswater is a reservoir completed in 1935 to serve the Manchester area’s growing need for water and, as with Lake Vyrnwy for Liverpool (post 28.11.12), involved the damming and then flooding of a river valley – this time, the Mardale Valley – where 40 people lived in 9 houses. They had to be moved out and their village was then demolished. The reservoir name comes from the name of the much smaller original lake but obviously disguises the fact that it was built for a large industrial town many miles away. It sounds just like an ordinary lake similar to others in the Lake District (Ullswater, Derwent Water, Coniston Water, Ennerdale Water etc); they did a similar thing with the name for the reservoir for Liverpool calling it a lake.

 

Isaac remained in the area all his life living on Gill Head Farm. From the 1881 Census we know that Isaac’s parents (Robert & Jane) & his siblings were living with Jane’s parents at Gill Head Farm. The Cookson family (with their ages in brackets) consisted of Robert (36) & Jane (34) with children Noble (9), Isaac (8), John (6), Kate (4), Tom (3) & Joseph (1). Interestingly, although sadly, the census records show that John & Joseph were both born blind. They do not appear in the 1891 records for the family but John reappears in the 1901 & Joseph in the 1911 where both are shown as “basket maker, blind”. By then both are in their thirties and lived on to 83 & 80 respectively.

 

Lakeland farmers used to meet up once a year, during November, at what is called “The Shepherds’ Meet”. Here they would come together to socialise and in observance of the code of honour for the fells each would bring any stray sheep they had found on their land. The owners of the various lost sheep would be identified by a complex system of ear markings that might involve punching, cropping, keybitting, fold-bitting, ritting, upper and under halving and forking; these marks could be on one or both ears. Just a verbal description of the cuts would be enough for a farmer to recognise whether a sheep belonged to him.

Check out this diagram showing different types of ear markings showing how various ‘cuts’ were made in the sheep’s ears to identify the owner. This interesting pic is from the Staffin EcoMuseum on the Isle of Skye and some of the text is in the local dialect but there is a partial explanation in English at the top. (You’ll need to drag down the page just a little to see the picture.

 

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=x6Yc8mfchzc6vM&tbnid=X1xwAsLa5nQK8M:&ved=0CAgQjRwwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.skyecomuseum.co.uk%2Fbrogaig.php&ei=xi0aUfb4Maio0AX9x4G4Dg&psig=AFQjCNHs7oXsid6Dr-WLwZkWKhma5D4DBA&ust=1360756550862128

 

There is a great story about Isaac who rarely ever left his farm: shepherds took pride in their appearance and one Friday evening Albert Graham was walking past the farm and saw Isaac outside having a wash in a washbasin – Isaac told him, “I’m thinking o’ going to Penrith on Tuesday”. Nothing like being prepared well in advance, eh? Nice one!

Isaac attended his 61st annual Shepherds’ Meet in 1952 (aged 79) and said, “I’m good for a few more yet”. (He actually died in 1956.)

 

And that’s why this is my favourite picture. There is so much you can get from it.

 

And to close, a bit of Lakeland/Sheep trivia.

 

Beatrix Potter (Mrs Heelis) didn’t write about Herdwick sheep but she was definitely keen on them. From the money she earned from the Peter Rabbit stories, during the 1920s, she bought up Lake District farms that were under threat from development. She encouraged the revival of the Herdwick breed of sheep and was president of the Herdwick Breed Association for a time in the 1930s. When she died in 1943 she left all her farms to the National Trust specifying that the sheep on these farms should be pure Herdwicks.

Today, there are around 50,000 Lakeland Herdwick sheep being kept commercially on about 120 farms in the Lake District some still owned by the National Trust.

 

And finally,

BANANA News:

 

image

 

If you remember last week’s post about my supermarket bananas I mentioned that they’d come from Cameroon and the previous week from Ecuador; this week they were from Colombia – the world’s 8th largest producer of bananas. I’m curious as to where next week’s will come from.