"..a bardy view!"

EHIC – the European Health Insurance Card

EHIC(Such has been the popularity of this post I've decided to highlight a fact: The EHIC is FREE. Click on this official UK Gov link if you require one) 

I arrived in Italy with tooth-ache.

The next morning I figured that I needed some attention by a doctor or dentist, so I asked my tour guide to book me an appointment, and  she got one with a dentist for 4.30pm the same day. (She was an ex-pat local resident).

At lunch time whilst walking around Sorrento I figured that it was too long to wait, and took a chance at a pharmacy and bought a five day course of Erythromycin – that's all I wanted – a short antibiotic. I'm allergic to penicillin so I was particular with my request.

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May 2, 2012 Posted by | Current Affairs, Education, Europe, General, Italy, Politics, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

February 3rd – a Bardiness day…..


Mar2010 006

February 3rd is not a date noted for major events in history, although the Dutch may disagree.

Windmills were forbidden for export by them in 1752, and they lost their Caribbean island of St Eustatia to the British in 1781.

Of course there were many great achievements by Holland, but I'm talking about events specific to February 3rd, and besides, I needed an excuse to show my favourite photograph of Amsterdam (right).

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February 2, 2012 Posted by | Cricket, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, facebook, General, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cautious Optimism – Philippines’ Style……

The Philippines Department of Tourism has revealed that the top five foreign markets for tourism, according to rank for the first 6 months of 2011, were South Korea, USA, Japan, China and Australia. Nothing new there then!

In a drive to increase tourism under the slogan "undiscovered treasures and hidden gems", the DOT has a goal to increase international visitors to 6.5m by 2016 (they ditched "Wow! Philippines" some months ago – personally I thought it was pretty good, but then again it really didn't mean anything, except that "wow" in this case meant "world of wonder" – but how many knew that?) 

They have some way to go to catch up to Malaysia which had 23m visitors last year, and Singapore which had 15m. I notice they didn't cite Thailand's figures, which, as pleased as I am, they may now consider to be an unrealistic benchmark. Besides, Thailand is more of a British playground which attracts the slightly more affluent 18-30 booze brigade bored with Spain and Greece, so they are welcome to it.

Not that the Philippines is entirely free from those types – but they are more likely to be Australians ranting and raving on Boracay. 

So "access and connectivity" are the new buzzwords to push for rapid expansion with secondary international airports, together with "strategic access infrastructure development programs".

When infrastructure and development are used in the same paragraph as tourism it should sound alarm bells. Words which are generally on the same side of a coin, the reverse of which is written conservation, environment, and ecology.

Which leads me to their other statement "..following the direction of President Aquino, we’re encouraging combined public-private sector partnerships to safeguard and preserve natural and cultural sites and vulnerable groups, such as native people, animals, or treasures, for posterity.”

Well, that's a nugget for the magpies to pick up!

But why are "public-private sector partnerships" required for these safeguards? Why cannot a government make statutory decrees to protect its heritage? Whilst private investment should be encouraged to aid tourism, are they saying that it is crucial for preservation? The commercial sector exists for profit, it is not renown for philanthropy.

Whilst the Philippines' government should be applauded for its perceived new vigour in recognising its natural assets, this proposed marriage will invariable have one dominant partner – the one with the dosh!

Increased tourism will be essential for providing jobs for an ever growing population, but getting the balance right will take more than grand gestures and sound-bites. Cautious optimism may be the appropriate phrase to end this post.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Royal Wedding and the Philippines…..

The global attention that the upcoming royal wedding is generating comes as no surprise. Countries with absolutely no connection to the UK are queuing up to broadcast the event. Certainly interest is to be expected from Commonwealth nations but others such as the Philippines are also hooked.

This is not likely due to the aura surrounding the British Royal Family, but more likely that in an age of celebrity worship this is the marriage of the decade. Filipinos love celebrities, and are quite willing to embrace them wherever they hail from. Prince William, the second in line to the throne should not be regarded as one.

He is not a film star, rock star, sports star, world famous fashion designer or supermodel. Nor is he a captain of industry, or a billionaire entrepreneur.  I suspect the British are inclined to accept their royals provided they can be seen to be doing something useful other than adorning magazine covers.

In William's case he is a qualified RAF helicopter pilot and his job entails air sea rescue providing a valuable emergency service. It is the measure of a man born into status and title who contributes to society with a sense of duty, when he could easily be a privileged layabout like some of his ancestors.

Whilst there has always been a republican movement to abolish this somewhat anachronistic system of royalty which flourishes in the UK, as long as it exists we may as well accept it. If we are going to have a royal family then it should be the best, so I certainly don't want to see them riding bicycles or catching the local buses and travelling in economy class. If they are going to do that then abolish them.

No, I want my royals to be royal and show it. I don't resent their position, I don't resent their wealth (even though I contribute to it), and if I was one, I know I would be very bad at it, and deserve my head cut off (metaphorically speaking). Such was the case with the French aristocracy, who were so detached from their subjects that they ended up detached from their own torsos. Indeed, this was a sulutary lesson to the British royals in the late 18th century, to the extent that it eventually produced Queen Victoria.

During her reign she saw the world's biggest modern empire develop, creating advancements in science, industry, parliamentary government and accountability. William is a direct decendent of Victoria, and I suspect he will make a great king one day.

The British don't have much of a history in the Philippines. England briefly ruled the place after beating the Spanish in 1762.  They sailed up the Pasig River and raised their flag over Fort Santiago, but under the Treaty of Paris two years later, George III gave it back to Spain in exchange for some of their dominions in the Americas (readers can visit my short and concise history of the Philippines here).

Things could have turned out very different for the Philippines if the Spanish were evicted root and branch, but it wasn't to be. The Country's name would certainly have changed. The English would not have continued to call it after a Spanish king.

The Spanish cultural influences would have disappeared, after all, their position at the time was fragile, and it was only afterwards that they really dominated and influenced the islands.

To take the hypothetical long view, there would have been no Spanish-Filipino war, nor even a Filipino-American war, but it's still likely that Great Britain would have lost the Philippines to the Japanese in 1941, just as the Americans actually did.

As for how the transition of power would have panned out after WWII is anyone's guess. The Union Jack would have lowered, and just maybe the British colonial system of parliamentary government would have remained, and the Philippines could now be part of a relatively stable, fair and prosperous Commonwealth.

Historians love hindsight, because it's a nine letter word which means what if? If history has a purpose, it is the power to envisage the future, and we ignore such lessons at our peril.

So I hope the Filipinos enjoy watching Wills and Kate walking up the aisle of Westminster Abbey. And whilst they join us all in the celebration, whether we be cavaliers or roundheads, I wonder if they will also be asking what if?

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, London, Politics, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

World Cup 2010 – The End of Football As We Know It!

Unfortunately, this is the World Cup which changed the game. No longer will we be able to get riled and angry blaming "the Ref". No longer can we have arguments in the pub about dubious decisions. No longer can the referee's decision be final.

After today, the glorious game will be monitored by technological micro chips, and if it happens at FIFA, it will happen at UEFA and eventually football associations around the world.

Congratulations to Spain, but just prior to their goal, there where two decisions which could have affected it.

When Maradona's Hand of God gave Argentina the divine intervention, England suffered in 1986. Then, for all the huff and bluster, it was regarded as dubious sportsmanship, nay gamesmanship and the name of the game.

In the South African World Cup, England again was the victim of a poor decision in their match with Germany. Could these events have changed England's mental and physical performance in both these games? Who knows.

Holland were superb in the 70's but never won the tournament. They took it well each time they made it to the finals, and that small country was big enough to handle it. As they will now. The Netherlands is unique in Europe. It is the most charming country, and I for one feel utmost pain at their defeat.

England were on the top of their game in 1970. As Champions they had the greatest collection of players in the world. However, a win on home soil at Wembley and then to play in the oppressive heat of Mexico demanded physical fitness and acclimatisation which most players were not used to, and they didn't play for teams overseas either.

On top of that the respected captain Bobby Moore was arrested for stealing some bracelet or other. Clearly innocent, it was an event that he and the players needed to rise to. How that would have been treated by 24 hour news media today I dread to think. No doubt the BBC and Sky would have catapulted their journalists all and sundry to dig the dirt.

Fortunately, that facility wasn't available back then. I'd like to think that Alf Ramsey would have shoved his opinions up where the sun doesn't shine (Fabbio take note).

But let's remember the greatest ever football match – that one in Mexico between England and Brazil. Sadly, if the micro-chip existed then, perhaps we wouldn't remember at all.

I remember the game, Brazil won 1-0 and I remember Moore swapping shirts with Pele. (Tomorrow, at some point, a lawyer will seek a ruling on health and safety, implying that his client caught an itch, which may interfere with his future performance or potential modelling career because of a rash. The days of shirt swapping will soon be over!)

Joking aside the problems are obvious. The flow of the game will be interrupted in the future. The heat and passion will be removed. The referee and his linesmen will not have ultimate authority, but usurped by the micro-chip – in the ball, in the net, and God knows elsewhere.

Big Brother has arrived in the great game. Fans may think this a step forward, but they do not realise the loss of human interaction. Football has almost become a non-contact sport, and what would be the point of defenders giving their all if their tackle can be instantly replayed. Ok for the pundits and followers, but for the referee his whistle would just be a passage of hot air.

The money is so huge, the international prestige and showcase so massive, that there is no room for error.

American team sports are clinical affairs dictated by sponsors and advertising. Today Wimbledon uses the technology to ensure a ball in or out. The likes of McEnroe, Borg, Connors, Năstase etc could not have been as entertaining with the electronic all powerful spy. And as for the women – I'd rather watch Yvonne Goolagong over the William sisters any day.

The new Centre Court roof was a reaction to the British weather (or was it the prospect of Cliff Richard singing again?) yet it planted a carbuncle on the stadium, and surely it is a lousy investment that will rarely be used? The summers are getting drier according to the climate change bods. (Yeah – its Cliff's fault!)

In tennis, human officials have been replaced by the micro-chip, and the game has suffered. When was the last great Wimbledon tournament?

Rugby has it's sin bin, but it is a contact sport and the referee must be respected. He has a link in his earpiece to a third referee when he needs it.  Cricket still maintains its umpire authority except when a wicket is in dispute.

Football (and by the way FIFA stands for Federation of International Football Associations for anyone thinking that the game is called "soccer" – It's not FISA) is different. This World Cup has created a knee-jerk reaction, fuelled mainly by media pundits because England had a goal disqualified.

Sepp Blatter (the FIFA bigwig) after much soul searching (about 48 hours) concluded that goal-line technology must be implemented – something he has rejected for years. But the power of the dollar is paramount. The money is too great. Football must enter the techno, clinical world of absolute accuracy.

This World Cup was not the greatest, but it meant alot for South Africa. Whilst they and the Spanish will dance into the night, and for many nights to come, a wake will be held elsewhere -  because the truth is football died in 2010 and it will never be the same again.


July 12, 2010 Posted by | Cricket, Culture, Current Affairs, Football, General, London, Politics, Sport, Tennis, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Killer Kangaroos and Great Britain

The news that a kangaroo not only attacked a dog but also it's owner must send spasms of fear in the Australian populace. Skippy would never have behaved in such a way.Union-jack1

It reminds me of the joke how the odd marsupial got it's name.

Apparently it received it's moniker from a Scotsman.

Trapped in an outside toilet in the outback of Australia – back in the early days -  he was screaming "ah canna geh oot! Ah canna geh oot!" (it was a glottalstop with a silent "t").

At the same time the strange jumping animal was hopping by innocently.

Folk who came to his rescue subsequently associated this wannabee wallaby as a Kang ar roo!

Jokes aside, this national emblem of Australia has enjoyed a greater prominence than that other symbol of uniqueness – the Aborigine. It would be unfair to associate them both in the same sentence, after all, one gets culled regularly to maintain a healthy population, whilst the other was once culled due to man's inhumanity to man.

Its a provocative statement, but the facts speak for themselves, and there are no winners in this.

At the time of European settlement it's estimated there were almost half a million indigenous people who had lived in Australia for 40,000 years.

As well as diseases such as smallpox which were brought by the early settlers and decimated the population, land and resources accounted for just as much of the decrease of native numbers. Add to that racial prejudice and perceived superiority, and they, like many elsewhere, were under threat.

The British will always be cited as the forebears of this, just as much as that which occurred in North America with the indigenous people there.

But whilst they may have lit the blue touch paper, it was successive governments which continued it, long after the British held no influence.

It's worth noting that it was after the American Civil War (fought to liberate slaves) that the states were unified and expanded westward, reducing the native peoples – long after the dastardly British (who abolished slavery years earlier) were gone.  What happened to those tribes and Indian nations (for that's what they were, regardless of the political correct idioms) is a history lesson not able to express itself with justice here.

Australia must come to it's own self-soul searching, just as the Americans and everyone else who finds the British a convenient excuse to justify their history.

As an Englishman, I don't feel any need to apologise. The world is not perfect, but at least a better place for having a British styled parliamentary democracy. Countries which had it and lost it turned into corrupt and exploitative regimes.

Think Zimbabwe and Burma and a host of other tin-pot African and Mid-East and Asian countries. Those that have kept it are fortunate that they have it. The flip side is to look at Spain and Portuguese influences where corruption and bad government abound – South America for example. Spain certainly must look at it's contribution to the world, and the virtual extermination of the Incas, Aztecs et al and the desire, at any expense to introduce global Catholicism.

No. I do not apologise for being English. Nor will you find me atoning for my ancestors sins or self-flagellating in a far flung outpost of lost empire. History must be viewed in the context of the times. It exists to learn from and not make past mistakes.

It's only 59 years since the Battle of Britain. When one nation stood fast and alone against the might of Nazi Germany. Let future generations judge us and question our heritage and say "that was our finest hour".

November 23, 2009 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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