June 18th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
MailOnline offers this list.
I reckon that I’m guilty of only about 10 of these, so that – although I’m 65 next week – I still feel young at heart.
June 17th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
I like to travel – I’ve now visited 60 countries – and I delight in savouring the products of different cultures, whether that is music, cinema or food.
Therefore I have recently enjoyed the haunting music of Lebanese-born Yasmine Hamdan as revealed in her latest CD called “Ya Nass” which apparently translates as “Hey people! Yo!”
In this article in the “Guardian” newspaper, Hamdan is described as “the modern face of Arabic music”.
June 16th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
Here in the UK, it’s been Father’s Day and Vee and I had lunch with our son Richard and granddaugter Catrin. Catrin had already given her daddy a card at home and, in the restaurant, I received cards from both Richard and Catrin (“Happy Father’s Day to a very special Grandad”).
Catrin was in great spirits, chattering away, eating her meal of fish and ice cream (not together!), and playing with both Vee and me. She is absolutely adorable – don’t you agree?
Vee and Catrin
June 16th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
The victory may seem ironic, given that Rouhani was the only cleric among the six candidates, but he appears to be the most committed to reform and has an interesting record as a PhD studnet in Scotland and a former leader of Iran’s nuclear negotations with the international community. He is probably the only political leader in the world who is fluent in English, German, French, Russian and Arabic.
Of course, it remain to be seen just how liberal he behaves in office – and indeed how liberal he is allowed to be by the Supreme Leader and the religious and military establishment. The power structure in Iran is complex and opaque, as I pointed out in my book review.
What is not in doubt, however, is the strong desire for reform from the majority of the Iranian people. I expereienced this when my wife and I were on holiday in Iran shortly fater the last presidential election which was certainly manipulated. You can read my overall assessment of the visit here.
June 15th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
As a Londoner, I use St Pancras railway station quite a lot. These days, it is a terrific venue with a central concourse full of shops and cafes.
Also located in the concourse are a couple of pianos that can be used by anyone at any time. I think that this is a great idea and this week – on the way back from a speaking trip to Nottingham – I took a photo of some children taking advantage of the opportunity to entertain passing train travellers.
June 14th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
In an earlier posting, I explained that I was fortunate enough to attend the London premiere of the latest Superman movie “Man Of Steel”.
I have now reviewed the film and you can read my comments here.
June 14th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
Later this month, I’m 65 (I know – I don’t look old enough!). As a result. the National Health Service invited me to a screening for something called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) which is a weakening of the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. The appointment was this morning.
Not surprisingly for the NHS in London, both the staff who attended to me were foreign-born and, as I always do when I meet such people, i asked them where they were from. The assistant was from Poland, so I practised my half dozen words of Polish. The guy who actually carried out the screening was from Sierra Leone, so I asked him about the civil war in that country from 1991-2002.
He told me that he had lived in the UK for 18 years, so he came her in the middle of the war. I learned that his father had been a member of parliament for the governing party and had been executed by the rebels.
He was immensely grateful to Tony Blair for his political courage as Prime Minister at that time in sending British troops into Sierra Leone to end the civil war. He said that, without such decisive intervention, the war could still be going on.
I found this a very sobering conversation. It was a very personal reminder of the good that can be done by foreign interventions in a war zone when the cause is just, the circumstances are right, and the objectives are thought through.
As for my AAA test, i was advised that my aorta is “perfectly normal” which was a welcome birthday present.
June 13th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
Anyone who knows me or who visits this blog regularly will appreciate that I am a massive movie fan, but this week was the first time that I have ever managed to attend a film premiere. The movie was the new Superman offering “Man Of Steel” and the venue was the Empire cinema in London’s Leiecester Square.
I was accompanied by my movie buddy Spence Routledge and we were guests of the distributors Warners Brothers. Here we are on the red carpet:
June 11th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
A friend of mine is currently in the Kurdish north of Iraq on one of his regular visits. The area is peaceful and I would love to visit it myself one day.
Meanwhile the situation of the Kurds in various Middle Eastern countries is being impacted considerably by developments in the region, as summarised in this piece in today’s “Guardian” newspaper:
Iraq’s 5 million Kurds have experienced relative stability since the end of the 1991 Gulf war, when they were liberated from Saddam Hussein and lived under a no-fly zone protected by US and British air power.
A persecuted people who famously had “no friends but the mountains”, they were allied with the post-cold war world’s only superpower. Iraq’s 2005 federal constitution gave the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) an unprecedented degree of self-government.
But the last few months have also held out the prospect of change for the 14-17 million Kurds in Turkey, where the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is in negotiations with the jailed Abdallah Öcalan, leader of the PKK and its 30-year insurrection.
Syria’s 1.6 million Kurds have made big gains since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad and now control the north-east of the country – though their status has bedevilled relations with the Arab opposition.
Kurds in Iran (7 million) enjoy minority rights but experience persecution. The Tehran government is concerned that PKK fighters leaving Turkey may now launch attacks inside Iran. Öcalan has talked of creating a “stateless union” between Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, which would increase integration while maintaining national borders.
Kurdish leaders everywhere are painfully conscious of a history of oppression and betrayal by supposed friends. Hopes for statehood after the first world war came to nothing and the British put down a Kurdish revolt in Iraq in the 1920s. In 1946 the short-lived Mahabad republic in Iran >was abandoned by the Soviet Union. In 1975 the US withdrew its support for an Iraqi Kurdish rebellion mounted from Iran and secretly aided by Israel, as part of a rapprochement between Baghdad and the Shah of Iran. “Covert action,” Henry Kissinger told Mullah Mustafa Barzani, father of the current KRG president, “is not missionary work.”
June 10th, 2013 by Roger Darlington
I am still in the process of watching on Sky Atlantic the series “Oliver Stone’s Untold History Of The United States”. It’s a fascinating, if controversial, project and I have now viewed eight of the 10 episodes.
Stone seeks to highlights opportunities when the aggressive nature of US foreign policy could have been tempered. One of those occasions was a speech made by President John F Kennedy exactly 50 years ago today in which he addressed the need for world peace. He said:
“What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace – - the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living — the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – - not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – - not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
Five months later, JFK was assassinated and his vision went with him. You can read the text of this remarkable speech here.