Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Holiday

Tomorrow we are off to celebrate with family in Sweden. Hopefully it will not be as wintry as in this photo from the Space Station since the car is not equipped with winter tyres, but this is where we are going.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is the actual midwife’s note from when I was born. It has been sitting in my childhood album all these years. I was a healthy little baby who arrived a few days early. The doctors had predicted I would be born on 24 December, but I could apparently not wait that long. I was born at the darkest time of the year, but I like to think of it as bringing the light, because this is when the days start getting longer again. Be positive! Just like my wife tries to convince me to feel happy about the up-coming birthday, not everybody gets to be this age, which is true, I suppose.

As a child I always suffered from having my birthday just before Christmas; all aunts, uncles, grandparents etc always combined my birthday present with my Christmas present, so I only got one when everybody else got two! ‘tsnot fair! I thought. Nowadays I can just about cope with it.

This is a picture from my christening a few months later. There were two more siblings to come.

The money in Sweden looked like this.

One of film’s objects of desire.

A popular Disney film of the day.

And the very first SAAB. Doesn’t it look futuristic!

When I googled the net I found some facts from the year I was born as well as the day, mostly from Wikipedia.


In 1947 Pakistan, India and the CIA were created; Pakistan and India, a messy conflict left behind by the British. CIA – I dare not even comment!

Liz and Phil (Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh) got married on 20 Nov.

In New York City, Edwin Land demonstrates the first "instant camera", the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.

The International Monetary Fund begins to operate.

Saab produces its first automobile.

Thor Heyerdahl's balsa wood raft, the Kon-Tiki, smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands after a 101 day, 4,300 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean proving that pre-historic peoples could have traveled from South America.

August 14 - After 90 years of British colonial rule, Pakistan gains independence from the British Empire. While the transition is officially at midnight on this day, Pakistan celebrates its independence on August 14 compared to India on the 15th. Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan.

August 15 - After a long struggle India gained independence from British rule. Pakistan splits from India. Rajendra Prasad is the first President of India. Jawaharlal Nehru takes office as the first Prime Minister of India.

American test pilot Captain Chuck Yeager flies a Bell X-1 faster than the speed of sound, the first man to do so in level flight.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which is the foundation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is founded.

November 16 The British begin to withdraw their troops from Palestine.

November 29 - The United Nations General Assembly votes to partition Palestine between ArabsJews. and

Mikhail Kalashnikov designs the AK-47 assault rifle.

In a cave in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea), several tall pottery jars containing leather scrolls are discovered, which later became known as the Dead Sea scrolls.[1]

Born this year:

Hillary Clinton, Elton John, David Bowie, Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, David Letterman, Salman Rushdie, OJ Simpson (oh dear me!), Carlos Santana, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen King, Meat Loaf, Marc Bolan (I know exactly against which tree he died!), Kevin Kline, P.J. O’Rourke, Ted Danson, Farah Fawcett, Dan Quayle (Mr Potatoe Man!), Sandie Shaw (“Puppet On A String”), Mitt Romney, Glenn Close, James Woods, Iggy Pop, Johan Cruijff (Dutch footballer and coach), David Blunkett, Arlo Guthrie, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles’ wife), Brian May (Queen guitarist), Richard Grifftiths (British actor), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Willy Russell (British playwright), Barbara Bach (Ringo Starr’s wife), Sam Neill, France Gall (French singer), Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) and Paco de Lucia (virtuoso Spanish guitarist) same day as I.

21st December

On this day in…

1620 - Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1913 - Arthur Wynne's "word-cross", the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

1968 - Apollo program: Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At 2h:50m:37s Mission elapsed time (MES), the crew performs the first ever manned Trans Lunar Injection and become the first humans to leave the Earth's gravity field.

1970 - Elvis Presley meets with President Richard Nixon to discuss the war on drugs.

(Didn’t work, did it?)

1988 - A bomb explodes on board Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270.

And then of course, adding to all the famous people above, …. I was born.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rheinturm Düsseldorf

Yesterday evening Mrs S and I went with her work colleagues to a rather unusual, but not unique, restaurant in Düsseldorf. It was located high up in a tower which we have had our eyes on many times, wondering what it would be like to view the city from up there. Finally we got to experience it. It was stunning! Seeing all the glimmering city lights in the dark was breathtakingly beautiful. The restaurant floor was slowly revolving, while the windows on the outside and the kitchen and central areas in the middle were stationary. On the windows, names of what could be seen in that direction were displayed. Facing the window for best view, you kind of got disoriented with what was behind you. At one time you had the reception area behind you, only to find some flower decoration by a wall the next time you turned round. It was quite tricky to locate the toilets, so many people often sat tight and waited for the toilets to turn up again! Have a look what Wikipedia says and then check out the links for a spectacular 360-view and also the light clock in action. At last I know what those lights are!

(From Wikipedia)

The Rheinturm Düsseldorf is a 240.5 metre high concrete telecommunication tower in Düsseldorf, Germany, capital of the federal state (Bundesland]]) of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was built from 1979 until 1981. The Rheinturm carries aerials for directional radio, FM and TV transmitters and has in a height of 174.5 metre a revolving restaurant and at a height of 170 metres an observation deck.

The Rheinturm was inaugurated on December 1, 1981 . It contains 7,500 cubic metres of concrete and weighs 22,500 tons. Until October 15, 2004, when an aerial for DVB-T was mounted, it was 234.2 metres high.

As special attraction there is a light sculpture on its shaft, which works as a clock. This sculpture was designed by Horst H. Baumann and is called Lichtzeitpegel (light time level). The light sculpture on the Rheinturm is the biggest decimal clock in the world.

360° interactive panorama

View this clock in action(Javascript)

Monday, December 10, 2007

First Christmas Card

When the first Christmas card for the season arrives you know it’s getting closer. This year the first card to reach us was a rather special one. I, like so man other people, have a list (on my PC of course) of cards received and sent. People who fail three years in a row will be struck off our outgoing list. Then again you might forgive some people an oversight due to age or illness for instance. People lose your address, although I always put our address on the back, but there might be other acceptable reasons for failing to send a card.

Our first card this year came from somebody, from whom we did not get any card last year, and with whom we have no other contact. In this case I feared he was no longer with us, and I will tell you why.

Five years ago I was hospitalised for four weeks and next to me on this ward was an elderly gentleman who had been there for some time when I was admitted, and who was there for some time after I had been discharged. We were both seriously ill but I was going through some testing and he was waiting for a certain procedure to which there was a long waiting list. He had to stay in hospital not to get pushed down the list into another category. You have heard of the British NHS (National Health Service) I guess. It has not exactly got a reputation for speed and efficiency, to put it mildly.

Both he and I had soon slid into this institutionalised state of mind, living by the hospital routines and procedures. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee, dinner and visitors – day in, day out. I soon got tired of the hospital food, which might not surprise you, but there was a break in the pattern when Devi, my bed neighbour, offered me some of his food that his family had brought him. He and his family are Sikh and were among the people whom Idi Amin expelled from Uganda many years ago. They regularly brought spicy and interesting food and were all very friendly, his wife, his adult children and other relatives. They always had a little chat with me and Mrs S if she was there, before sitting down by Devi’s bed. Often the women were dressed in traditional, colourful Indian dresses, brightening up the whole ward. Devi’s daughter even flirted with me in the presence of Mrs S! I was flattered.

We heard from the nurses on the ward, when we came to visit Devi after I had been discharged, that he had left the previous day. We never had the opportunity to take up his offer of visiting them since we moved to Germany shortly afterwards, but we kept up our exchange of Christmas cards.

Last year we feared Devi was no longer with us since we did not get the customary card. I had even been thinking about writing to inquire about his health. So to get this card as the first of the season was a wonderful moment. For a non-religious person to get a Christmas card from a person of the Sikh faith is perhaps unusual, but this one in particular certainly warmed my soul. Call me sentimental if you like, I don’t care!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yes, It’s That Time Again

First Sunday in Advent has been; we are officially in Christmas mode and perhaps mood as well. We have some lights up already, we play some Christmas music every now and then (some with little kids singing their hearts out and also superb Sally Army brass music) and we have Mr Snowman on the step accompanied by a welcoming sign on the door.

Quite a few Christmas presents have been purchased although we will have “Secret Santa” for the adults, so we only buy one adult present and receive one, all very hush, hush! For the young children, well, the word “abundance” comes to mind. My young nieces still love pulling out the usual fun little things from their English-style stockings (that Mrs S loves filling) as does my 85-year-old mum. This year will be the first year of stockings for my 2 ½ -year-old granddaughter. I know she will be intrigued and excited when she gets hers!

The good thing about Christmas for somebody like me with one foot in each culture, English and Swedish, is that I get to celebrate the Swedish main day on Christmas Eve and the English one the following day. Not bad! My Swedish relatives love the added English ingredients and some German for that matter. So we are looking forward to our annual Christmas trip to Sweden with great anticipation. What is not so wonderful sometimes is the atrocious weather conditions in which one sometimes has to go Christmas shopping! Like last Sunday when we went to our nearest Dutch town in search of some good bargains. There were extremely strong winds and torrential rain; we had to crawl along the motorway and all the bins in the town centre looked like below. Somebody will make a lot of money this week from selling brollies to the unfortunate.