Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Farewell 3

This time to the office, who threw a party. I was a bit nervous, given the recent HR issues, but it was very nice and I felt a lot of warmth from colleagues. So goodbye - or hopefully hasta luego - lovely colleagues! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit Thoughts

Pondering on the referendum as it begins to sink in. Without fear of blowing things out of proportion, to me it's... well, it's a catastrophe. 
I grew up loving the idea of 'Europe'. Grimms, Tintin and Asterix; Belle and SebastianJeux Sans Frontieres and European footie on the telly; camping holidays; the first album I ever bought being Dutch (Focus 3), followed by Krautrock, Heldon, Magma and a fixation with all things Eurorock; Bowie's 'Berlin' period; getting into films by Herzog, Fassbender, Truffaut, Goddard etc; living in Strasbourg for a year; an Italian girlfriend; the food; the edginess & mystery of the Iron Curtain... 
When we joined the EU in 1973, it somehow brought all the above closer to home. Sure, the institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg were (still are) kind of impenetrable and aloof, and some of the directives, the Common Agricultural Policy etc aren't perfect. But anything that brings countries together is a good thing in my book. And of course there's never been a war between EU countries (the Balkans was pre those countries joining, right?). 
But the thing that really depresses me is what the vote signifies. Basically, it says We don't like you. We don't want to be part of Europe, we're proud Little Englanders, we don;t want you coming into our country and taking our jobs, we can't be bothered to speak other languages and who won the war anyway? 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Farewell 2

Unbelievable. The people have voted and... we're out of the EU. We were saying goodbye to some friends over dinner in a restaurant in Roma, confident that by the end of it (we're 7hrs behind UK time), we'd still be in the EU. Our friends were Mexican, Japanese, Dutch, and American. Furtive glances at smartphones as the meal progressed. "Don't worry, it'll be like the Scottish referendum". But by the time we'd said our goodbyes it didn't look promising. "Well, good luck" said our Dutch friends. By the time we got home we were out. I can't quite believe it. Is it a bad dream?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


This morning I took part in a small but moving ceremony to commemorate Jo Cox, the MP who was senselessly murdered last week and whose 42nd birthday it would have been today. There were about 40 of us gathered in the garden of the British Embassy. There were similar events in Trafalgar Square, Batley and Spen (her constituency), New York, Nairobi, Beirut and many other cities around the world. I read a poem. It was good to do.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Puebla may have a population of over 3 million but it feels a lot smaller. Nice cathedral, lovely squares, but the two most striking things about the city are the colour of its houses and the gorgeous tiles everywhere. We bought a boxful, though it was tempting to get crates of the stuff. And why not paint our house in Chichester pink while we're about it? Works here, but in overcast England, perhaps not.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Round the Volcanos

This morning we drove south-east from Mexico City, taking a circuitous route around the two volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Popcatapetl, both over 5,000m, and descending to Puebla via Cholula. Cholula is the site of an enormous Mesoamerican pryamid which gives Giza a run for its money. Much of it now looks like a hill, but bits have been restored and there's a tunnel which goes deep inside. When the Spanish came in the 16th Century they massacred a lot of people and plonked a church on top of it.
Our hotel in the centre of Puebla is one of the nicest we've stayed in in Mexico.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Alfa 91.3

It would be fair to say that the in-car soundtrack of our time here has been Toño Esquinca's show on Alfa 91.3.  Donde Todo Nace!  So here are 15 songs that Alyssa has picked out which will always remind me of Mexico, even if none of them are Mexican. 

1. Stitches by Shawn Mendes
2. Hello, by Adele
3. Shit Up & Dance With Me, by Walk The Moon
4. Hotline Bling, by Drake
5. Stressed Out, by Twenty One Pilots
6. Cake by the Ocean, by ONCE
7. Can't Stop the Feeling, by Justin Timberlake
8. 7 Years, by Lukus Graham
9. Photograph, by Ed Sheeran
10. Fast Car, by James Blue
11. Adventures of a Lifetime, by Coldplay
12. Love Me Like You Do, by Ellie Golding
13. Geronimo, by Sheppard
14. Don't Let Me Down, by Chainsmokers
15. Sorry, by Justin Timberlake

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sizzling Hermosillo

Today I find myself in Hermosillo, state capital of Sonora in the north-west of Mexico, 200 miles from the US border. It's in the middle of nowhere, arid and incredibly hot. Yesterday was a jaw-dropping 46C. Today, a mere 42C but still, I think, the highest temperature I've experienced anywhere in the world. I'm here to sign an MoU with their Minister of Culture, as part of a broader series of events which include trade and education. The formality of the occasion means I have to wear a suit and tie but thankfully it's very dry heat and amazingly I hardly break sweat.    

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rio 2

A day walking the steep streets of Santa Teresa including the beautifully tiled Escadario Selaron; a cable car ride to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain; a make-believe game of footie on the beach. 
Yet somehow we're a bit disappointed. It's overcast, the streets are fairly quiet, and there's a cordoned off area of the beach where a body had been found. 
I mean, we weren't expecting Carnival and we didn't do the nightlife, but somehow, especially with the OIympics just round the corner, we were thinking it was going to be full of joie-de-vivre. Maybe our expectations were just way too high - I mean Rio! - or maybe the financial stresses of preparing for the Olympics is stressing everyone out. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Boys From Brazil

View from Christ the Redeemer
To be in Sao Paulo on a Weds & Thurs, well, who wouldn't grab the opportunity to hop over to Rio de Janeiro for the weekend?  So I did, joined by my good friend Bats. 
What a fabulous setting: the bay, the hills, the beach. We stayed at the southern end of the Copacabana, near Ipanema, and ate in the cafe where the 'The Girl From...' was written. Then took a taxi to the statue of Christ the Redeemer which was shrouded in cloud for most of the time, but at a viewing point a bit lower down had fantastic views. Can't believe I'm here.