Showing posts from September, 2010

Head Turners

I've been thinking about writing this post since I snapped the photo on the left about a month back. I wanted to craft something thoughtful, perhaps even a little profound, to accompany this image. As I sit typing now I get no sense that I'm going to achieve my aim this evening. Nevertheless, like a fine impressionist painting, I hope these words go some way to conveying the picture in my mind. I loved cars as a kid. Either my ninth or tenth birthday outing was to the Motor Fair at Earls Court, London. (Whichever it wasn't was a trip to London Zoo!) I can still remember the cars I got my photo taken with that day: the then new Toyota MR2 , the MG Metro 6R4 and behind the wheel of a BMW 628 CSi – the 635 CSi was my favourite but there wasn't one of those on display. There were plenty of other super-cars roped off where you couldn't get your sticky little fingers on them. These where the days when the Lamborghini Countach was cool! Yes, these were the Tha

Ever the optimist?

It's been a bleak day in Mostar; rain non-stop for at least the last twelve hours. We're almost moved so today found us stuck in a half-empty apartment with little to do and even less motivation to do it. After watching a football match I had a passing interest in and falling sleep for the duration of the one I wanted to watch I found myself catching up with some other blogs. It was this that lead me to a Radio 4 documentary: The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia by Martin Bell. I like to think of myself as an optimistic person. I have been accused of such in the past, although sometimes when I listen to myself talking I have my doubts. For a foreigner living an adopted country I believe it's important to keep a positive outlook. I find it insulting when other internationals constantly talk about how life is safer, more civilised, or whatever, in their homeland. I'm sure the constant critique must grate on local people even more. The permanently vexed ex-pat has the opti

What Isn't There

A couple of days ago we mentioned some demolition work had started not far from where we live. Today I shot this short bit of video as we strolled by. After making this video I spotted the sign that said the site is going to house some new government buildings in Mostar. If they go up as fast as these ones came down then they'll be practically finished by the end of next week!

Mapping Stereotypes

Today the Telegraph introduced me to the work of Yanko Tsvetkov. Yanko is a London-based Bulgarian who describes himself on his website as a 'graphic designer slash visual artist'. He has produced a series of maps of Europe that label countries by the perceived stereotypes of one of the member states. Being English I was naturally interested in 'Europe According to Britain'. I think the concept is great but either my stereotypes are not representative or he's a little off. For example, I've never been to Iceland, although I have long wanted to, but I have been to Vegas; I don't think I've ever confused the two. I also recently argued, during a trip to neighbouring Finland, for the strength of Sweden's pop output. (They are one of only three countries that exports more pop music than they import, the US and the UK being the other two.) What really surprised me, though, was to see the Western Balkans clumped together under 'uncharted'. Perh


I took this photo on our first visit to Mostar, back in March 2008. A quick search through my photo albums has indentified it as the best photo I have of the building second from the right. As we walked into town this morning we discovered this ruin had been reduced to a pile of rubble. (I didn't have my camera with me or you might be looking at picture of that too!) This highlights a dilema I have often pondered. For us, who only arrived in this country two years ago, the derelict and ruined buildings are part of the character of the place. We never knew them when they were shops or houses. For people here they must serve as a constant reminder not just of the pain of conflict but of a past that is unlikely ever to return. Seeing them restored or replaced by new buildings must give some hope for the future. For us is a reminder to beware the dangers of misplaced sentimentality.

Faking it?

So today we read that Casey Affleck has confirmed what some of us suspected all along, namely that the ' documentary ' following Joaquin Phoenix's lurch from an acting career to hip hop experimentation was staged. Fake is a word being bandied about. That seems a little strong given that the clip of him on Letterman that announced his apparent celebrity meltdown did actually happen. However when it comes to the integrity, or credibility, he was claiming it's true Phoenix is left in need of a resurrection. Still, this little Hollywood side show serves as an interesting parallel to the real news here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's election time. You can tell because, as much as anything, something like a million political posters have been plastered over Mostar. Rowan and I are not here for any politically motivated reason, and we don't have voting rights for this country, but living here we've obviously interested in the effect of the political situation

One is not amused.

"Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hinderance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary." So reads the inside cover of the British Passport. Nestled under the Royal Coat of Arms, and written in some suitably cursive font, it is impressive stuff. It would be great to think these words actually meant what they say; that someone, somewhere, might actually offer assistance should it be required. Not for the first time we've come to realise that the phrase 'afford the bearer such assistance' could more accurately be read 'if the bearer can afford such assistance.' Today my wife phoned some office in Germany with a question about a UK passport renewal. (Yes, that does say Germany.) This was the fourth number she called in one of those 'oh, the person you need to call is...'

Two Years Today

Nine years ago yesterday Rowan and I sat on a beach in Crete talking about the future. It was one of those moments that changes the way you see things from then on. For me it was the first time I realised I wanted to move on and do something different (well, sort of the same-but-different) from what I'd been doing up to that point. We came back from the beach to a text telling us a plane had crashed in New York and walked into a hotel bar to join a crowd watching live TV coverage minutes before the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers. The world changed that day. But for all the things that were different in the post-911 world what we were doing wasn't much changed, at least not dramatically so. Until two years ago. Two years ago today we arrived in Mostar , after an epic road trip across Europe, to start doing something the same-but-different in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a life change unlike any I'd imagined, although Rowan had spent half her life wanting to

Perfect prediction

Back when Lord of the Rings was wowing audiences on the big screen I was more than once referred to as a Hobbit. It had nothing to do with hairy feet, of which I am thankfully not the possessor, proud or otherwise, but more to do with being short of stature and with a tendency to slightly generous proportions around the waist. Tolkien aficionados will know 'The Hobbit' is the widely used abbreviation for 'The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.' Today we drove there and back again through some of Bosnia and Herzegovina's fantastic countryside; mountains, rivers, valleys and forests that could easily be parts of Middle Earth. We were treated to sunshine and clear skies, heavy clouds and pouring rain and the most intense onslaught of thunder and lightening. The reason for our journey may have been relatively mundane but the weather provided everything required for an epic adventure! About halfway between here and there is a small, mountain side gas station and caf

A nice reminder...

We were driving back from Jajce to Mostar earlier this week. It had been pretty miserable weather in Jajce which after the hot sun and soaring temperatures of the Mostar summer was an unwelcome shock to the system! The drive back started off rainy but as we drove up the mountain between Gornji Vakuf and Prozor the sky began to brighten. We got to the top and saw this. It was, as the title of this post says, a nice reminder.