Mike Vickers' Blog

April 27, 2019

New Sleeper – forget Brexit and arrive refreshed

Filed under: Brexit, Personal, Railways, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 8:28 pm

This post is purely personal.

Scotrail, after months of work, have now got their Sleeper Fleet together and the first journey north is from Euston tomorrow evening.

The Sleeper is the way to travel for that full day’s meeting in London or Edinburgh or Glasgow. Forget the Red Eye flight where you have to turn up at the airport at 6 am. The sleeper gets you there in comfort by 8am in plenty of time for the 9am meeting. Some may say the journey is uncomfortable and I admit I occasional wake up going through Rugby when the train slows; sometimes it has even stopped for ½ hour so as not to arrive too early but that has been the exception. But the real benefit to me is that you can board the train at 11 pm and the new service offers 10am and just go to sleep and just sleep knowing that you will be at your destination on time effortlessly.

The new service offers full Scottish Breakfast rather than the current ‘packed breakfast’.

The service is extended to Fort William and Inverness during the Summer months; which means that you can enjoy crossing Rannoch Moor from the comfort of the buffet car and even an early dram ; and if you want you can travel on from Fort William to Mallaig and Skye on the steam hauled Jacobite. Alternatively, you can go to Skye via Kyle of Lochalsh via Inverness; not so, glamourous but beautiful scenery all the same, and over the highest mainline railway at Drumochter.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_extension&hsimp=yhs-pty_extension&hspart=pty&p=fort+william+to+mallaig+by+steam+train#id=1&vid=9dfef8efa0bf7896e073328f8d515555&action=click

Anyway, just get a flavour of the benefits of the new sleepers at:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/27/london-scotland-revamped-train-sleeper-romance-revival

End of Personal Blog – Brexit free

April 16, 2019

Notre Dame

Filed under: Europe, In Our Time, Italian, Notre Dame, Sustainability, Travel, World Class — derryvickers @ 3:17 pm

Molti anni fa, ben circa dieci anni, noi, come una famiglia, abbiamo visitato Parigi per il fine settimana con Ryan Air. Siamo andati in giro, siamo passati SacréCoeur, abbiamo visitato il Louvre, visto il Mona visto da lontano e siamo andati al centro Pompidou con tutte le sue tubazioni esterne, e abbiamo salito la Torre Eiffel. Abbiamo apprezzato molto la cucina francese.

E, naturalmente, abbiamo accodato per andare in giro per la Notre Dame.

Non sarà aperto di nuovo nella mia vita, ma speriamo che nostri figli  saranno in grado di farlo. Anche così non può essere proprio come prima del fuoco. Capisco che ora non ci sono alberi abbastanza alti almeno in Francia per sostituire i legni del tetto.

I giornali sono pieni di bruciato, ma non catturerà la tragedia di essere solo sul Seine e guardare il tetto crollare.

April 11, 2019

Scozzese Giornale: 11 aprile 2019

Filed under: Black Holes, Brexit, Italian, Knoydart, Land Ownership, Scotland, Travel, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:23 pm

Nello scozzese Giornale di oggi: 11 aprile 2019

  1. Naturalmente,, Le Simulato foto of il buco nero in galassia M87.
  2. Macron infelice con la Brexit ritardata rischiando il Rinascimento dell’UE.
  3.  Varadkar (EIRE President) si collega al Regno Unito per rimanere nell’Unione doganale con l’UE.
  4. Traffico legato all’asma.
  5. Il volto di Bonnie Prince Charlie (non sembra che Bonnie a me).
  6. Borders Rail treni sovraffollati e spesso cancellati (sono un appassionato di treno).
  7. Un’altra storia sulle ragazze di Derry e quanto è fedele alla vita dei tempi. Buona TV ma un paio di volte è sufficiente.
  8. E in Real Homes una tenuta in Kilchoan Knoydart è in vendita per £ 5m.

Numero 8 mi interessa soprattutto perché è adiacente a/a sud della Fondazione Knoydart dove abbiamo buoni amici.

Per il blurb sulla tenuta di Kilchoan si veda https://www.onthemarket.com/details/6572192/

Ma per saperne di più della Fondazione Knoydart andare a http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/.

Il villaggio principale della Fondazione può essere ottenuto solo in barca da Mallaig.

La tenuta di Kilchoan è una tenuta sportiva; Io non sono un fan di Sporting Estates ma mi rendo conto cervo bisogno di essere colti, ma preferirei che fosse per il pasto non per lo sport.

Sarebbe eccellente se la Fondazione potesse acquistare la tenuta. Non posso che sperare.

 

BTW oggi è ancora un altro giorno in cui non abbiamo lasciato l’UE; Spero che ci saranno molti di più.

Scotsman: 11 April 2019

Filed under: Black Holes, Brexit, Knoydart, Land Ownership, Personal, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 10:14 pm

In today’s Scotsman: 11 April 2019

  1. Of course, the simulated photo of the Black Hole in galaxy M87.
  2. Macron unhappy with Brexit being delayed risking EU Renaissance.
  3. Varadkar (Eire President) plugs for UK to remain in Customs Union with EU.
  4. Traffic linked to Asthma.
  5. The face of Bonnie Prince Charlie (doesn’t look that bonnie to me).
  6. Borders Rail trains overcrowded and often cancelled (I’m a train buff).
  7. Another story on the Derry Girls and how true to the life of the times they are. Good TV but a few times is enough.
  8. And in Real Homes an estate in Kilchoan Knoydart is up for sale for £5m.

Number 8 particularly interests me because it is adjacent to/ south of the Knoydart Foundation where we have good friends.

For the sales blurb on the Kilchoan Estate see https://www.onthemarket.com/details/6572192/

But to know more of the Knoydart Foundation go to http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/.  The main village of the Foundation can only be got to by boat from Mallaig.

The Kilchoan Estate is a Sporting Estate; I’m not a fan of Sporting Estates but I realise red deer need to be culled but I would rather it was for meal not for sport.

It would excellent if the Foundation could buy the Estate. I can but hope.

 

BTW today is yet another day when we didn’t leave the EU; I hope there will be many more.

April 9, 2019

Linlithgow Arts Guild – Final show for this season

Filed under: Linlithgow, Linlithgow Academy, Linlithgow Arts Guild, Travel — derryvickers @ 6:19 pm

Two delightful ladies playing at the last event in the Linlithgow Arts Guild in this year’s season.

  • Lana Trotovsek – violin from Slovenia
  • Maria Canyigueral – piano from Spain

Their CVs are impeccable, and their playing lived up their CVs.

They played music by Bach, Beethoven, Clara Schumann and Prokofiev

The Bach probably should have been for harpsicord therefore somewhat miscast for piano; the Beethoven was great as Beethoven always is, for me; the Schumann sweet and the Prokofiev Sonata No 1 for violin and piano was breath-taking.

Two delightful days of music and talk.

Lana was off at crack of dawn on Sunday to Shanghai while Maria to London to tutor her 4 students, then home to Spain.

World travellers both. But this is the life of the groups who play for the Linlithgow Arts Guild.
Most are a class act.

Maria has now acquired a Steinway.  Excellent news!

February 28, 2019

Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council

Filed under: Communications, Linlithgow, Personal, Planning, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 12:10 pm

As a member of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council I have tried to set out what I see as our role in the following Mind Map.

Double click map to bring up as full screen.

I welcome comments from other Community Councillors in Scotland and the UK more generally.

BTW Linlithgow is a lovely place between Edinburgh and Glasgow from where you can visit Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. And we are only 20 kms from Edinburgh Airport.

Find more about us @ MyLinlithgow

November 29, 2016

An Impression of St Petersburg

Filed under: Europe, Music, St Petersburg, Travel, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:07 pm

The immediate impression on driving from the airport to the city centre is how many shop signs you recognise. This is buoyed up as soon as you start to walk round the centre; you might have confused St Petersburg for any Western City. On flying out you are required to go through the usual array of booths selling perfume, biscuits and booze.

But of course St Petersburg is not only a western city; it is a living museum to a great Russian Past; first established when Peter The Great wished for a seaport on the Baltic from where he could attach the then Swedish Empire which had plagued the North Western Russian Baltic coast. Peter also was an avid travel within Europe and wished to ‘westernise’ Russia. He built the city and then required his state officials to move from Moscow. Which of course they did, after all Peter was a Tsar, but moving into the outback was unthinkable; they brought their mansions with them and so you have the magnificent heritage which is St Petersburg. Of course St Petersburg was not built in a day; St Petersburg was taken forward by Catherine the Great, who had married a grandson of Peter and looks to have usurped the throne from him. You can find much more about St Petersburg on Wiki including the transfer of power from the Romanovs to the short lived Democratic Government to the Bolsheviks.

Tomb of Peter The Great. Peter Paul Cathedral

Tomb of Peter The Great. Peter Paul Cathedral

Short-lived Democratic Government

Short-lived Democratic Government

Catherine The Great

Catherine The Great

But one point worth bring up is that the area occupied by St Petersburg was a swamp, cut into two by the Neva River, a great wide navigable river; the swampland was drained by canals and these together make a splendid feature of walking around the city; the canals and palazzi reminder one of Venice though all a lot colder.

Neva River

Neva River

Canals

Canals

To the glamour buildings and there plenty of them:

The Hermitage – a truly enormous set of rooms spread over three buildings: The Winter Palace, the Little Hermitage and the Large Hermitage, all sumptuously furnished that the guide books says will take three days to do justice to. We spent just 1/2 day

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

The Clockwork Peacock

The Clockwork Peacock

The General Service Building across the Palace Square– now an art gallery containing art from the world over: more Rembrandts than the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, more French Impressionists and Post Impressionists than Pompidou Centre in Paris

The Palace Square

The Palace Square

The General Service BuildingThe General Service Building

 

 

The Church of the Spilt Blood – plastered from doom to floor in mosaics – no longer a Greek Orthodox Church, but the church is excellently preserved.

The Church of The Spilt Blood

The Church of The Spilt Blood

 A Church Tower Dome

A Church Tower Dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marble Palace – Marble Rooms with immaculate parquet  and mosaics floors and near the top the most modern of modern art.

A Mosaic Floor

A Mosaic Floor

Just One of the other Churches

Just One of the other Churches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Russian Museum

The Russian Museum

The Citizens

The Citizens

A Sculpture

A Sculpture

The Russian Museum – set to rival the British Museum

Puskin in from of the Russian Museum

Puskin in from of the Russian Museum

All well attended but we were there on a public holiday weekend – Celebration of The October Revolution and it seems clear to me that Russians are proud of their history; history even prior to the Communist Revolution. On The Peter and Paul Fortress, an island in the Neva River near the city centre is the Peter and Paul Cathedral where all the Tsars are buried; even Nicholas 2 who was assassinated by the Bolsheviks: he and this family were exhumed from their grave at Ekaterinburg.

Peter and Paul's Cathedral

Peter and Paul’s Cathedral

 

But to us, as splendidly glamorous as the main buildings are we were as interested to the Museum of Politics: it provides a history of the period up to the Communist revolution and from then up to the passing of power to Putin on January 2000. Yes, the displays do contain some propaganda but not all ‘sunny side up’. And this to me was a feature of St Petersburg itself striving to be a western city, but glorying in its Tsarist past and little sign of overarching or even any Government power. Yes, you do go through careful passport control at the airport but even that scrutiny is exercised more in acquiring a passport in the Edinburgh Visa office in Edinburgh. BTW if you do want to go to St Petersburg (other than on a cruise ship) you do need a visa and the easiest way to get one is to have your St Petersburg hotel to invite you with dates of residence.

Two of the Tomes the Czars

Two of the Tombs of the Czars

To other things:

The available music is great.

First night to see Puccini’s Tosca – as well a dressed performance as you would get anywhere in a western opera house and at less money.

The Opera House

The Opera House and Royal Box

A string concert in one of the rooms in the Large Hermitage – you need to get there early as the seats are unmarked and it is difficult to find the entrance – not the main one. One of the caretakers was very helpful in telling us the way

And finally the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra: three pieces finishing with Schubert’s Great C Major played with all the gusto of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 to the delight of the audience.

Just a couple more comments

  • Eating is cheap – we were set up when we found the Market Place – packed with students and great food
  • A café in the main street Nevsky Prospect which is up to any café in Vienna

    Café in Nevsky Prospect

    Café in Nevsky Prospect

  • Alexander Nevsky – the Russian hero who’s relics are buried in St Petersburg
  • The Singer Building – used to make sowing machine but now a book shop – that took me back what Foyles used thirty years ago before its splendid face lift
  • Pushka Inn where we stayed. Staff speak impeccable English – but so do most Russians who have anything to do with the tourists: English is the lingua franca – will it remain so after Brexit and Trump?

    Our hotel was on the right

    Our hotel was on the right

  • Is there any effect of Western Financial Clampdown.  Well some of the arcades are half finished but that could have started before the clampdown.

In Summary St Petersburg is an excellent place to visit even in November with an outside temperature of around -1 C in the daytime and a lot cold in the evening with winds blowing around the canals!

September 8, 2016

Putting the Camera aside in the Mediterranean

Filed under: Europe, In Our Time, Politics, Travel, War — derryvickers @ 8:46 am

How’s this for a business model? The smugglers of Libya cram as many people as possible aboard ramshackle dinghies and send them off across the Mediterranean. There’s virtually no chance that the boats will make the 300-mile journey to Europe; they will either sink, drowning all on board, or be intercepted by a rescue ship or naval vessel on patrol. But the outcome makes little difference to the smugglers, who are part of a more than $5 billion industry; either way, they get paid, and new passengers keep coming.

This is the very definition of a death-defying journey, which TIME correspondent Aryn Baker and photographer Lynsey Addario set out to tell for this issue and an ongoing multimedia project. Now that the refugee route from Turkey to Greece has all but closed down, more and more migrants are braving the far more dangerous Libya-to-Italy corridor. Aryn and Lynsey embedded with a rescue team from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières on the MV Aquarius. It took their 77-metre., steel-clad, multi-engine surveying vessel 36 hours to reach Sicily from Libya. “The thought that these tiny, 40-horsepower-engine [migrant] boats, loaded with one tank of fuel, could make it anywhere would be laughable but for the number of lives at stake,” Aryn says, and indeed the death toll on the route has risen sharply this year, to 2,726 people.

These refugees came not just from the nightmare war zones of Syria and Sudan but from all across Africa. As dangerous as the sea journey is, Lynsey observes, “This is the least harrowing of their months- and years-long journey to date. They have been tortured, bound, gang-raped, trafficked, humiliated, starved and thrust into the open seas, and we come upon them often as the first ally since they left home.” At one point after intercepting a sinking trawler, there were 551 people aboard the Aquarius; Aryn handed out emergency rations, while Lynsey deployed her rudimentary Arabic to help calm frightened passengers.

“After almost two decades of covering people at their most vulnerable, I am often asked when is the appropriate time to put my cameras down and intervene in any given situation,” Lynsey says. Normally, her response is that she is not a doctor, and her mission is to tell the story to the larger world. But as the rescuers scrambled to pull some 400 people from one sinking boat, babies, toddlers and children were thrust from the crowd, one after another, passed along a chain of rescue workers. “When I pulled my camera away from my face, I realized everyone’s hands were full but mine,” Lynsey says, “and there was a startled boy at my feet–no more than 3 years old. The boat was jostling to the left and right, the sea splashing around us, and I thought of my son. I instinctively picked up the boy, letting my cameras dangle at my side, and undoubtedly missed some of the most important images of the day. But the situation was tense and precarious, and I knew what I needed to do then and there.”

This was Lynsey’s fourth journey on a search-and-rescue boat. She knows already it won’t be her last.

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR: TIME Magazine September 12, 2016

PS If this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes

July 22, 2016

Two weeks in The Western Isles – Barra to the Butt

Filed under: Land Ownership, Lesley Riddoch, Linda Norgrove, Music, Painting, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 7:30 pm

Barra

  • Wind, Sea and Vatersay seasky
    • New road across from Barra. But there in LR’s time
      • EU supported
  • Kisimil castle – right in the middle of Castlebay
    • Get there by boat
    • Lovely restored wee castle of the MacNeils Kilmil
  • Kisimil restaurant
    • Not to be missed – need to book
  • Weather had been bad on first day and in the North saw three Twin Otters land within the hour the next

 

South Uist

  • Ceolas at Dalburgh –
  • Music Summer school
  • http://www.ceolas.co.uk/summer/
  • Ceilidh
  • Two young accordionists
  • Patsy Reid- excellent Scottish Fiddle Player
    • Did not play much at the evening we attended but she may have continued later
    • Tutor in Fiddle
  • Step dancing – people just got up one by one and danced
  • Mountains all down the East Coast
  • Machair on the West
    • glorious flower drenched in the sun
    • machair

 

North Uist

  • Balranald RSPB reserve
    • Otters but we never saw it
    • Oystercatchers in profusion, ringed plovers, dunlins
  • BB with Jac
    • Excellent house
      • Got the sun room
    • Artist – colourful landscapes
    • Views from our window great
    • Not easy to find restaurant
  • Chambered Cairn cairn
    • Unfortunately entrance recently blocked
  • Trinity Temple
    • Believed to be oldest university in Britain
    • Dun Scotus University

South Harris

  • Golden Road
    • Built in 1937 – so called as so costly to build
      • Must have been recently rebuilt
    • Harris Tweed shops and museum
    • Community café – excellent
  • Coffin Road
    • Ground too hard to bury dead in East
    • More likely because people wished to bury their dead in the cemeteries of ancestors, which were on west
      • People evicted from Seilebost in west to stony, poor ground in the east
    • Excellent walk over bealach
      • resurfaced
  • Scalpay
    • New bridge opened by Tony Blair
    • Fish restaurant – quality fish at a price – locally caught
    • No lack of small boats in small harbours with small jetties
      • Run by Community
        • A general situation in the Outer Isles
  • More Harris
    • One eagle observed from Eagle Observatory
    • Sight of St Kilda from Huishinish – Far West
    • Luckentyre – lovely beach but two cemeteries
    • North Harris Community buy out
    • Harris is very mountainous
      •  All over

Lewis

    • Lewis is flat
    • Old Village at the end of the road, Orasaigh OldVillage
    • Ravenspoint museum
      • Unbelievable collection of old documents and photos off South Lewis
    • Callanish – stones fabulous
      • Callanish 1 2 3 etc
    • Black houses occupied till 1940
    • Harris tweed made largely in Lewis
      • Calloway loom – Hattersley 60 inch now out of production
        • Complex to set up
        • To be classed as Harris tweed it must be woven at home Hattersley
      • Norman Mackenzie
      • Isle of Berneray
      • Good walk
      • Iron Age House
    • Uig
      • Mangersta
      • Restaurant
      • Glen Bhaltois – geology
    • Butt of Lewis
      • Birds
        • Gannets diving, fulmars nesting, kittiwakes, shags fishing and nesting, terns, ravens
        • Fulmars unbelievable fliers when close to cliffs
      • Lighthouse TheButtLight
      • St Moluag’s Church ButtChurch
      • Crofts not being crofted
    • Pol’s Pantry
      • Excellent food
        • Chef saved a buzzard caught in barred wire Buzzard

General

    • Roads of good quality and surface
    • Communities very much on the move
    • Plant trees, protect them and they grow
    • Difficulty of cash machines – then we find them in Post Offices but they close at 5pm
    • Great that CalMac kept the Western Isles Ferry contract
    • For a better travelogue with people read Lesley Riddoch – On the Outer Hebrides

May 31, 2015

Maybe Hope for Cyprus at last

Filed under: Cyprus, Europe, History in the making, Politics, Travel — derryvickers @ 8:32 pm

An article in todays Observer brings back memories of my stay in Southern Cyprus. It was more than 10 years ago and I still communicate with a good friend I met as part of my job; I was the senior consultant with a consultancy on a project to completely rethink the IT systems of the Electricity Authority there.

The guys in the Electricity Authority were great – they joked that the Authority was drowning in red tape – tape left by the British.

But the key feature was the Green Line – the line that divided the Turkish North from the South. The island’s population is small and many friends bemoaned that they could no longer have an evening coffee in Kyrenia – the old city on the north coast – just 20 miles from Nicosia. The Green line is an International Dividing line set up in 1974 by the UN and in my time we could not cross it without piles of paper and no guarantee that you could get back.

Since 2003 the Cypriots do cross but there has been no break through in re-integration – till now; but hope may be on the way. There is a new Leader in the North, Mustafa Ankinci , and Nicos Anastasiades in the South is more amenable to talk. Here they are drinking coffee – you may know Turkish Coffee but you won’t find in the South – there it’s Cyprus Coffee but it tastes the same and you can take in withour sugar!

For the full article see

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/31/mustafa-ankinci-advocates-focus-future-for-splintered-cyprus.

If you enjoy a good travel read then you could do a lot worse than read Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons – a bit old now but setting out the problems that lead to the island dividing – Turkish North and Greek South

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

And if you’ve not been to Cyprus , in February you can swim on the coast at Ayia Napa and drive 20 mile and ski on Mount Olympus at 6000ft.

And did you know the UK still has two sovereign bases in Cyprus – Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Turkish or Cyprus the coffee is the same

Cyprus Leaders drink coffee together

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