Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Egyptian takeaway!

Absolutely brilliant - Gazans locked into the Strip with borders closed and no supplies coming through have simply blown up the border with Egypt in order to cross and get food and fuel.

Surely it's outrageous collective punishment to starve and deprive a population to try to force a submission, in this case the end of rockets aimed at Israeli towns. But I suppose it's not unusual behaviour - medieval sieges, the teacher telling the class that it's no skin off his nose and they will sit there all night unless the kid who said the rude word owns up.

What happened to the Ehud Olmert who recently said he had feeling for Palestinians' suffering, stuck in wretched refugee camps? This time he said he sure as hell wasn;t going to let the Gazans have "comfortable and pleasant lives" as qassam rockets fall on Israeli towns. Which Gaza was he referring to? Gaza-sur-Mer near Monaco? Bad Lahiya, the German spa town? The pleasure dome of 'Kubla' Khan Younis? The Rafah Hotel with its fine Singapore Slings?

Israel is clearly not amused by the rockets - and who would be? What can you do with the people firing them? There's broad sympathy for Israel on this and they havea carte pretty much blanche to launch air and ground strikes, trash the place and if they slice a few civilians to bits in the process, well, the world doesn't mind too much.

Simply to cut the entire place off is pretty crass though. Even the Israeli press thinks so.

So what now? Will the border be rebuilt? Maybe Israel will take the opportunity to close all crossings between it and Gaza, cutting the Pals off once and for all and bringing the separation between West Bank and Gaza a step closer.

Who knows. I hope my friend Abed and his family get down there in their battered old white Renault, stroll across the border and breathe some non-Gaza air for a few minutes. Not being able to leave a 45 sq km strip of land for years and years puts a lot of pressure on your soul...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'd rather live in Barnét...

While I've been away, my drab borough of Barnet been reborn as chic Barnét (pronounced à la française...), a touch of fantasy brought about with a simple flourish of a marker pen or a few cm of masking tape at an angle above the 'e'.

Barnét has its own Facebook group Actually i prefer living in Barnét than living in Barnet with more than 1,000 members (including moi).

It has been covered by BBC local news and the Daily Mail, who revelled in 'Middle-class mischief-makers adding accent to Barnet sign to give it French twist' (nothing they like more than the middle class appearing for once to have fun). Lumbering behind the pack once again, my old lot the Hendon Times made up for the delay with blanket coverage under the chirpy header 'Bienvenue to Barnét'. Barnet Council doesn't approve one bit, prompting the Times weekly editorial writer to wonder: "Come on council, where is your sense of humour?"

I love it - it's as amusing as St Ockwell, St Reathem and St Evenage. Barnét is twinned with Chaville near Paris, with the BBC reporter making the gag that it could be rebranded Chav Ville, a nice bit of cross cultural dressing as Barnet Town centre really is quite horribly towny.

Can anything similar be done with East Finchley? East Finchlée? The East is kind of unglamorous. Finchlée de l'est? Nope.

Never mind - the "I love N2" campaign was genius, a deft flick from "I love NY". So simple, so clever, so beautifully absurd - East End Road to Lower East Side by rearranging a single line...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Slideshow - Romania

5 days – Transylvania and Bucharest. I preferred Bucharest, with its 100,000 stray dogs and appearance of a futuristic post-war appearance as imagined by someone in the 1950s, over Transylvania, with its rugged landscapes and fascinating ethnic mix. In general I found the Romanians to be upbeat, in a good mood and extremely sociable. But Transylvania had more of a central European feel, a little stodgy, conservative even, with its mix of Romanians, Hungarians and German-speaking Saxons, while Bucharest was a little more like Greece, with glamorous and stylishly dressed people, men in suits giving roses to fantastic-looking girls, packed restaurants and yet without the kind of exaggerated splurging you might find in Beirut or the barrage of yelling you might get in Tel Aviv. A bit more reserved, less vulgar, somehow sweet...