Posted on December 24, 2019
Greetings to all and Happy Christmas & New Year from MB.
To wrap up 2019, MB has decided to give you all an English essay from 18-year-old (as she was then) daughter of MB, namely MB2. MB2 wrote the following essay during the pressure-cooker days of her final secondary school exams of June 2019. Proud dad got hold of a copy yesterday and took MB2’s permission to post it.
From the pen of MB2 – Dawn & Dusk
Dawn & Dusk. Two extraordinarily different events that are too often labeled as such mundane happenings. The sun goes up and the sun goes down. How cruel it is to generalise such magnificent times of the day, to talk down the magic they possess.
Let me start with dawn. The best thing about dawn is that it is a certainty. Regardless of what time the sun goes down, or how long the night lasts, dawn will always be there to bring light back to the world in all its beauty and silence. To watch dawn is to experience life. One moment, the darkness engulfs the world in hues of navy blue and ink black and the next these colours transform into pastel orange and duck egg blue.
Even before the sun comes up, dawn is changing the world, illuminating everything you see and slowly but surely returning to the earth. Dawn also signals the first sounds of the day, cockerels sounding their identifiable call and finches beginning the day with a sweet melody. The first car revs it’s engine as the sleepy owner prepares to make the arduous journey to work. And then, like an apparition, the first glimmer of sun shines over the horizon, casting light into everything in its path. As the rest of the ball of light emerges from its slumber, so does the rest of the world. The sun shines in through bedroom windows gently coaxing young children out of sleep. Animals of all kinds wake up with the glorious light of the sun as their alarm. The most magical moment of the dawn is when the light from the rising sun catches the morning dew on the grass and the entire lawn seems to glimmer like the Indian Ocean. Dawn is the symbol of new beginnings, of getting up and starting or trying again or succeeding or failing, but of doing. Dawn epitomises the phrase, ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’, because it is the light at the end of the tunnel. Even after the darkest night, when it seems as though light will never return to the earth again, the dawn pulls through and the sun shines down on the earth in all its glory like a natural manifestation of God.
As dawn is light and silence, so is dusk intense and loud. Both beautiful enough to make a grown man shed a tear, dusk is a different kind of beauty. A beauty that is so intense, it demands to be looked at, to be taken notice of. As the end of the day draws to a close the pale blue sky is illuminated by a hundred different shades trying to take over the sky. Violent shades of purple, flame orange, blood red, marshmallow pink and stabs of pastel yellow all try to manifest across the sky resulting in what looks like the most beautiful Monet ever to grace the earth. And none of that compares to the sun itself. As it sinks further into the horizon, dusk is the one time where the sun’s true form is actually visible. A flaming mass of gas that looks as though it could set the whole world alight with even the faintest touch. What comes with dusk is the appearance of the moon and the first stars of the night. Their sereness balances out the intense power of the sun as it is consumed by the horizon. That’s when the dark takes over. A comforting darkness that tenderly assures you that it will watch over you as you sleep. That the stars themselves will send you dreams so beautiful they could never be replicated on screen. And the moons light shines down on the earth watching over us all and there as a reminder that the sun is coming once more.
Dawn and dusk. Two extraordinary events that both signify a beautiful beginning and end.
Posted on December 16, 2019
Thanks to Amy for this week’s ‘On Display‘ challenge.
MB has selected one of his aerial display shots from his Doha Corniche early-morning walk on Friday last.
Posted on December 13, 2019
MB decided to kick off his weekend with an early-morning stroll along Doha Corniche this morning. The Corniche is MB’s favourite walk in Doha, being 5km long, give or take. So if one parks one’s car at the Islamic Museum car park at one end, as MB normally does, one gets the full 5km and the same back. 10km. Walk or run. As you wish. Or mix the two. As MB often does. Read More
Posted on December 6, 2019
Thanks to PA for the Abstract challenge.
Voila – MB’s offering:
On first impressions, the above small section of a vaulted church ceiling seems abstract in appearance. On closer inspection, one sees the remains of religious murals, mostly long disappeared by the vigors and passage of time. MB took the above shot in July 2019 during a visit to the Selexyz Dominican Bookstore in Maastricht, Holland, easily the most beautiful bookstore that MB has ever visited.
The church was built by the Dominican Order in 1294. All went swimmingly for exactly 500 years until French Emperor Napolian invaded in 1794 and expelled the Dominicans from the country. Since then, the church has served as a parish church, a warehouse, and an archive. In 2007 some bright spark had the great idea to turn the building into the stunning bookshop that we see today.
One can make out a coffee shop in the area of the former church altar area (if one has a magnifying glass!) in MB’s below pic. MB tasted its wares on his visit and can recommend it highly. What better way to enjoy a freshly-smelling new book than sitting in an old church altar, drinking tasty coffee and munching delicious fresh pastries?! Absolutely none, if MB can answer his own question!
Posted on November 30, 2019
Carlisle, in northeast UK, dates back some 2,000 years and is steeped in Roman/English/Scottish history. One can read some castle history, if one wishes, on the English Heritage website here.
Emperor Hadrian, a Trump-minded character of his day, ordered the construction of a large stone wall nearby, to keep out pesky Northerners who were wont to invade Roman England. Hadrian’s Wall was completed in 112AD and the largest fort along the length of the wall was built at Carlisle, housing a 500-strong Roman cavalry regiment. At the date of the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Carlisle was in Scottish hands. The son of William the Conquerer, another William, then retook the city for England. Construction of Carlisle Castle started in 1093AD and it was rebuilt in stone in 1112. In 1315, Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland, laid siege to the castle but failed to take it and retreated north again, having killed a miserly two English soldiers. In 1567, Mary Queen of Scots fled from the English to the castle.
The castle was also used as a prison to house the Border Reivers, a band of locals who were forced into cattle stealing and other general criminality due to the havoc caused by waring northern and southern armies over many years. The Curse of Carlisle is attributed to the Archbishop of Scotland who referred to the Reivers thus:
“I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain, their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their legs, their hands, their feet and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.”
As curses go, MB must admit that the Bishop’s curse is quite all-encompassing, and the guy could easily have been a lawyer.
But it was to Carlisle Cathedral that MB laid siege in recent days. The Cathedral is approximately 900 years old and is built on the grounds of a former church dating back to the 7th century. It was commenced in 1122 and originally founded as an Augustinian priory, being designated a Cathedral in 1133.
MB and some other elites (haha MB, what a kidder you are) attended Carlisle Cathedral in recent days for a Law Masters graduation ceremony, the august Cathedral interior providing a most impressive venue for the ceremony. The ceremony itself involved a short walk down the main street of Carlisle town centre, from the dressing hall (hats & gowns) to the Cathedral, allowing townsfolk to bow reverentially as MB and friends passed by. MB could have sworn he heard one of his colleagues shout “let them eat cake” but he is not sure.
Big thanks to University of Cumbria for an excellent occasion, and to mom & sister of MB for their attendance. Was also a great pleasure for MB to meet up with some good friends who also attended.
Posted on November 15, 2019
Been a while since MB wrote about anything other than cheery weekend thoughts and photo challenges. Day-1 of the Middle East weekend is now upon MB and he is sipping coffee in a Doha coffee shop, having just wolfed back a warm chocolate tart. All, generally speaking, is good with the world. A short trip to the UK is imminent (of which more anon), and two weeks back home for Christmas break is eagerly awaited.
MB has been following the US Democratic Party primaries in recent weeks, watching lots of it on YouTube, and actually mentioned one of the candidates in a HX blog post of mid-September, related to Artificial Intelligence. As MB followers of old would expect, same candidate went from zero to hero in the following weeks and managed to raise USD 10M in a month. In the last week alone he has raised over USD 1M. So it seems that when MB gives a should-out, miracles are possible!
MB just watched a YouTube video of the same candidate, which is approx 1 hour long, but extremely engrossing. If there is a smarter guy running for the White House who understands the issues of the day, and how they might be solved, MB is unaware. MB will go a step further, and state – there is not (unless MB enters the race!). This guy is the real deal, and MB (again) wishes him well.
Back in the Middle East, there is much bubble, bubble, toil & trouble. MB has many Lebanese friends who are stressed out to a man and a woman at present. Past political mistakes have allowed rampant corruption and now chickens are coming home to roost. The people, regardless of their religious affiliations, which in the past might have kept them in check, are protesting at their poverty, lack of opportunity, and more recently at the failure of banks to allow full access to people’s own funds and to introduce ‘rationing’ of cash. The corrupt politicians are making matters worse every time they open their corrupt mouths and are pouring fuel on the fire. Recent days have seen matters regress further and most are fearful for their futures.
A similar story is unfolding in Iraq with the population protesting violently for the same reasons. However, the Iraqi army are far more trigger-happy than the Lebanese, and hundreds of protesters are dead.
Related to the above stories, and never written of previously by MB he thinks, is a very prevalent theory amongst Arab nationals. When things are going badly, one will hear many of one’s Arab friends blame “outside forces” who “control” their region (USA, Israel, the West generally). This ‘theory’ is obviously the easy option, so it’s grabbed with both hands by the locals. When you ‘know’ that ‘outside forces’ are in ‘control’ then you never have to look in the mirror and ask yourself any serious questions. In no other location that MB has ever traveled to has he heard locals so vocally blame others for their own troubles and mistakes. The coincidence of people’s protests in Iraq and Lebanon at corruption and poor governance in recent weeks was evidenced by an Arab friend to MB last week as yet further proof of “outside forces” pulling the strings and “controlling” the region. Strooth!
So dear followers have a good weekend.
Regards from MB.
Posted on November 10, 2019
Posted on November 8, 2019
Climb a tree!
In August 2014 MB found himself in Sudan, compliments of a wedding invitation he received from a young Sudani friend. MB took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. Sudani friends organised for MB to visit an area called Soba with his camera, just outside the capital city, Khartoum.
It was the middle of the day when MB arrived with his Sudani friends. Most of the Soba male inhabitants were missing, having travelled to the city in early-morning to sell vegetables or bottled water in markets and street corners.
By Westerns (or many other) standards, Soba is extremely poor, with the inhabitants living a subsistence-level lifestyle. The houses people live in are not far removed from the houses their sheep and goats live in. But regardless of the relative poverty, most inhabitants that MB encountered had a smile on their faces, especially the children.
MB caught the kids in his below pic at their favourite tree.
So this weekend, MB suggests that you go climb a tree, if you can.
And be damn grateful for the hand of cards that life has dealt you.
Posted on November 1, 2019
But who’s watching who?
Posted on October 27, 2019
Thanks to Tina for this week’s Double challenge.
MB caught these two doing steward duty at the Redbull Soapbox Race he recently attended in Amman, Jordan. Wonder what they are seeing?!
Posted on October 23, 2019
Thanks to Amy for this week’s layered challenge.
MB’s It’s the Weekend post of a few days back featured a shot of an old train that MB took some years back in Sri Lanka; 2013 to be exact. MB was on an overnight train journey from capital city Colombo to a hilltop village called Haputale in search of Lipton’s Seat; the seat that owner and founder Sir Thomas Lipton had installed at the top of the highest peak on his Lipton’s Tea Plantation, where he would come of an evening to relax and reflect on life and tea-growing. MB managed to find the seat and sat in it and gazed for a long time out over the hills and tea plants that stretched as far as the eye could see one beautiful Sri Lankan August evening. The icing-on-the-cake was drinking top quality Orange Pekoe black Sri Lankan tea from the little tea hut that lies close to the seat, for the benefit of travelers who make the journey. MB wrote a post about that trip to Haputale entitled Time for Tea if followers care to read.
MB had paid some extra shekels for a sleeper carriage on the overnight trip to Haputale, the journey being some ten hours or more. However, the term ‘sleeper carriage’ seems to have a different meaning in Sri Lanka than elsewhere; a wafer-thin foam mattress of no more than 3 or 4cm not affording much sleeper softness from the bone-hard plywood underneath. So upon sight of some sunlight in the very early morning hours, a very tired MB alighted from his bed-coffin, not having had a wink of sleep since boarding the train many hours previously, and meandered out to the train corridor to view the surrounding countryside from the corridor window.
And what a multi-layered early-morning sight to behold:
Time for Tea – next to Lipton’s Seat some 30 to 40 minutes drive by Tuktuk from Haputale:
Posted on October 19, 2019
Take a train ride!
Posted on October 10, 2019
Get those bicycles out!
Posted on October 6, 2019
Thanks to Patti for this week’s Filling the Frame challenge.
You may have thought that there is no alcohol production in the Middle East. But if you did, you’re wrong!
MB was in Jordan a few weeks back, primarily to attend the wedding of a work colleague. Whilst the wedding was a ‘dry’ wedding, involving as it did two Muslim families, beer and alcohol generally are freely available in Jordan. On the day after the wedding, MB killed some time with a local friend visiting two great pubs. Both sold a Jordanian brewed craft beer called Carakale, after the local brewery that makes it.
And a damned fine tipple it is.
To check out the Carkale brewery, click HERE.