A beautiful icon from the Princely Church in Curtea de Arges
A beautiful icon from the Princely Church in Curtea de Arges
The seven-legged race comprises teams of six people who race around the cathedral close in an anti-clockwise direction. The prize is won by the first team to cross the finishing line having completed 66 laps. The race was started in 1541 by boys who had been unsuccessful in their attempts to join the cathedral choir and who wanted to put a curse on the building by invoking the spirit of the Antichrist with their 6 X 66 idea.
Initially, the teams were tied together with a rope that went around people’s waists so that everyone had the use of both legs, but in 1652 the rules were changed by Cromwell, who wanted to make the race less fun and more puritanical by tying people’s legs together. Thus the tradition was born which is maintained to this day.
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Soon Major was thirsty, so he headed for a small stream and sucked up a ten yard stretch in a matter of seconds. As an encore he raised his trunk vertically in the air and blew out the last two yards of water so that we tourists were treated to our own mini-monsoon. He trumpeted slightly. He was happy, we weren’t.
Major was off again. After 5 minutes he stopped once more and this time he raised his tail vertically. What goes in must eventually come out especially with a high-fibre diet. The stench was horrible though I managed to hold my breath for the whole time. However, Major stayed in the same spot after finishing as though he was savouring the occasion and so I had to breathe in this horrible smell. There wasn’t much oxygen around and I began to feel sick; luckily Major moved and some fresh air entered my lungs saving me…for the moment.
At different sites over the two main islands of Malta and in the surrounding waters are found some man-made features which have been given the name ‘cart ruts’, largely because the first visitors to discover them believed they had been worn by a cart. Their most famous site is at Clapham Junction, named after Britain’s busiest railway intersection, an area in the southwestern part of Malta, where the wind sweeps in from the sea and the air smells particularly salty. This area, about a hectare in size, is similar in appearance to a limestone pavement and is scored by parallel channels up to 20 inches deep and 8 inches wide, with another 8 inches separating the two channels.
These ruts run mostly in straight lines in no particular direction, though there are places where one set of ruts branches off from another, like a set of railway points. There are many ideas about what created these ruts. One theory is that a contraption, similar to the travois of the Native American, wore them away, though this is difficult to reconcile with the shape of the ruts, which to the hand feel smooth and rounded at their base, more consistent with wheels wearing away the rock. If travois were used, what heavy weight was transported on a regular enough basis, along the same path, to wear away the ruts so deeply and why was it being moved by the people of the time?
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We then encountered a long queue of people holding their passports. At the head of the line was a large overweight gentleman in a grey tunic sitting on a wooden chair similar to the ones we had had at school twenty years previously. The customs official’s hair was thinning and combed backwards, though he had a fine walrus-like moustache. Mr One Dollar wheeled the trolley past the queue, which concerned me, so I indicated to him that we should join the queue at the back, rather than pushing in at the front. He shook his head and smiled. As we drew level with the official, Mr One Dollar said something to him in Farsi. The official looked at me over a distance of about 5 metres with an expression that reminded me of a languid bloodhound. In perfect English he said, with a rather fierce tone, “Where are you from?” “The UK,” I said, brandishing my passport and smiling. He glared at me, “Do you have a visa for Iran?” “Yes, I do,” I replied and started to leaf through my passport. He waved his hand imperiously and said, “OK, you can go, please.” He didn’t even look at my passport let alone the visa. I must have looked awfully confused because Mr One Dollar tugged at my sleeve and beckoned me to continue. He smiled and said, “One dollar, one dollar.”
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I entered the 1st chapter of my new novel into a competition and it won, so the 1st chapter is now available here: http://writersbillboard.net/firstchapter3.html.
It will soon be available on Amazon and other websites along with my other books, 40 Humourous British Traditions, Julian’s Journeys, Ten Traveller’s Tales, and 40 World Sports
So what will the Chinese eat when all the sharks in the oceans have been killed to sate their need to consume shark fin?
I can tell you the answer: Turtle and dolphin flippers and manta ray wings.
The reason I can answer the question is that these creatures are already been caught off the coast of Mozambique and their body parts shipped back to China.
Please read the following article:
The Coles Notes version of the article is as follows:
The conservationists in Mozambique are not only fighting against the Chinese but their own government including the fisheries ministry. Conservationists have called for legal protection of species such as sharks and manta rays in Mozambique because at the present rate of destruction the manta rays could be wiped out in 15 years. Fishermen are more efficient than ever before thanks to bigger nets given both by the Chinese and by the government as part of official schemes intended to benefit fishing communities. By contrast the authorities only have one or two patrol boats to cover the coastline.
Some local activists believe the Chinese are gangsters and have the protection of certain government officials while others see this sea creature destruction as part of a global criminal conspiracy with impacts far beyond the control of local fishermen. As if to illustrate the point the Environmental Investigation Agency has said nearly half of the timber exported from Mozambique to China is done so illegally
The beaches and ocean of Mozambique are a diver’s paradise with one of the most fabulous concentrations of sea life in the world and the huge irony is that the economic argument for preserving the shark, rays, and dolphins in the long term surely outweighs a one-off profit for a few fishermen and Chinese.
Although Mozambique is far away we can still take action locally – I would suggest that we can all make a difference by refusing to eat in Chinese restaurants where shark fin and other marine animals in danger of extinction are on the menu.
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I find it hard to believe what is happening in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, in the UK – all investigative journalists worth their salt should be heading there straightaway.
Seaton Carew is the home of the mysterious “Canoeist” John Darwin, who ‘disappeared’ in the North Sea in March 2002, only to apparently come back from the dead in early December 2007, when he presented himself at a police station in central London. Besides the ease with which he obtained a false passport and travelled apparently unrecognized to Panama and Gibraltar, the strangest element to this story in my opinion is the number of people who didn’t think he was dead. Darwin’s 90-year old father told the Evening Standard newspaper that there might be more to his disappearance than was first thought: “When his canoe was found but he wasn’t, it didn’t seem right.”
Some of his former co-workers were also sure that John Darwin was alive. One former colleague was convinced that he recognized Darwin in the street, although the ‘missing’ man was trying to disguise himself in a fairly comical way, by wearing a hat, limping, and walking with a cane. All he needed was a parrot and a piratical accent and he could have been a character from a local pantomime. Despite the doubts, Darwin’s erstwhile colleague did nothing to find out if his suspicions were correct.
According to the newspapers, Darwin stayed in his own home with his own wife, even sleeping in their own bed. When anyone called to the house, Darwin merely went next door to another property he owned, via a wardrobe, which sounds like something out of Narnia. Their sons were apparently kept in the dark about the insurance scam that will likely lead to a spell in prison for Mr and Mrs Darwin.
The house next door angle intrigues me. Who else is living there? Should American special forces stop searching the darkest recesses of Central Asia and instead head to Seaton Carew, where people haven’t said anything to anyone about a certain 6ft 5 inch tall male called Osama bin Jones, who walks to the shops wearing a hoodie and who has regular kidney dialysis at the local hospital. Should the Metropolitan Police be interested in the noble gentleman with the cut-glass accent, known as Lord Jones, who sits in the local pub and sneers at the regulars, calling them lower-class scum? A few years ago, an old woman called Amelia Jones died in a local nursing home – she was thought to be insane, as she babbled incessantly in an American accent about crashing in an airplane near the town in the late 1930’s. She claimed to have flown all the way from the Pacific, but no one ever believed her.
Finally, reports of a plesiosaur in the local swimming-baths have never been properly investigated. Whenever Loch Ness was being scoured by the latest Nessie-seekers, locals would often see strange shapes in the swimming pool after closing time. Given recent events in Seaton Carew, this doesn’t sound that far-fetched any longer.
Sight Number 17 – The Festivals of Vancouver Festivals abound in Vancouver and they begin on the first day of the year. There are Polar Bear swims at various places in the Lower Mainland such as Deep Cove in North Vancouver and at Davis Bay on the Sunshine Coast, but the largest gathering of swimmers is at English Bay where thousands of Vancouverites and visitors plunge into the cool ocean. Grandmothers, hula girls, and drunken Vikings all take a dip. The Bald Eagle festival in Brackendale near Squamish happens during January and the annual count of these magnificent birds takes place during the festival. The Chinese New Year is celebrated at either the end of January or the beginning of February. The main parade takes place behind the International Village on a Sunday and is a photographer’s delight. Not only are there lion dancers, but also traditional costumes, banners, dragons, and lucky fish. With a nod to the multi-culturalism of Vancouver, the parade also includes First Nations people in traditional costumes and exotic Brazilian dancers who must get quite cold in their outfits. In February, the Vancouver Storytelling Festival, with the emphasis on children, occurs at various venues In April Vaisakhi parades are held on different weekends in Surrey and in South Vancouver. In May, in Surrey, one of the largest rodeos in North America, the Cloverdale Rodeo, is held at the fairgrounds on the weekend nearest to Victoria Day. Vanier Park in Kitsilano hosts the Vancouver International Children’s Festival starting on the last Monday. There are activity tents, storytelling workshops, and plenty of craft-making opportunities. This festival draws entertainers from all over the world and has something to offer children of all ages. In June things become hectic. The Dragon Boat Festival takes place over a long weekend on the waters of False Creek. The Shakespearean festival “Bard on the Beach” begins in Vanier Park running until September. With the dramatic North Shore Mountains as a backdrop, the two large tents set the stage for the season’s four productions. The International Jazz Festival starts in late June for 10 days of excellent music. Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and Diana Krall have been some of the headline acts in the last few years. There are free open-air concerts in Gastown and at over 30 other locations in Vancouver. In July, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival takes place over three days in Jericho Beach Park with local and international singers, musicians, and storytellers. The Celebration of Light international fireworks competition is held on two consecutive Saturdays and Wednesdays at the end of July and beginning of August over English Bay. This is the most popular festival in Vancouver with hundreds of thousands of attendees. People start claiming their places up to 8 hours in advance, so if you want a good view, get there early. In the last few weeks of July and the first week of August Vancouver’s Pride Festival takes place with the highlight being the exceptionally popular Pride Parade on the last Sunday. In August, out in the Fraser Valley, the Abbotsford Air Show fills the skies with skydivers, wingwalkers, and aerial acrobatics. In Vancouver a lesser-known festival is the Indian Chariot parade. These large vehicles, pulled by followers of Lord Krishna, weave their way along Beach Avenue and finish at Second Beach in Stanley Park. The chariots are spectacularly colourful and enthusiasts dance along in front of them in a genuine show of happiness. Granville Island hosts the Wooden Boat festival during late August.
A Vancouver institution is the fair at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds at the end of August and beginning of September. Known locally as the PNE, the major attractions are the amusement park rides. Other highlights include the athletic Superdogs, the various ethnic fast foods that are sold, and my personal favourite, the racing ducks and piglets. The Vancouver International Film Festival happens over 16 days in late September and the first half of October. Documentaries are particularly well represented. In November, the Burnaby Village Museum is transformed into a Christmas scene with carollers, costumed townsfolk, and craft making. In December, the Four Seasons Hotel hosts the Christmas Tree Festival, the VanDusen Gardens are illuminated during their Festival of Lights, and Stanley Park’s miniature train journeys through a spectacular display of Christmas decorations.
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