Saturday, September 03, 2011

One of the best!

From time to time we all receive those scam spam emails where someone pleads with us to help them to solve their rather large money problems. Rarely however, are the scam emails as topical as this one. Somebody was really quick off the mark to produce this:

Peace be onto you and your family,

I am Mrs. Safia Gadhafi the wife of Muammar Gadhafi of Libya. I am presently in Algeria with my daughter Aisha and my sons.

I am sure you knows all about my family presently, I am contacting you for urgent help to secure in the name of investment in your country my family fund which NATO, UN and the Libyan transitional council have not seen. The amount involve is $80M.

Note; we are not interested on what you are going to do with this money or profit you will make from this fund rather my interest is to have the money back on demand.

If you are interested in assisting us, Your full assistance is highly needed in all participation.

Note also that your percentage for this help could be discuss.

Please forward the following information to this email address. 
(address removed!)

Full name:



Copy of ID: 

Finally don’t forget that it is a top secret therefore only email correspondence for security reasons.

Thanks for your support in advance

Mrs. Safia Gedhafi"
My reply to this cry for help?
Dear "Safia",
The next time you try to scam someone, you might like to at least check that you spell your own name consistently.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Summer of Reading

This year, instead of our usual tour around Spain, we've stayed "at home" in south west Germany. Circumstances have not allowed us to travel. When it dawned on me that I would have a lot of time to read, I decided to buy a Kindle rather than use up my luggage allowance with paperbacks before coming over from the UK.

I've been asked by a couple of people for recommended reads, so here is my Top Ten. These are not in any particular order!

1. "The Dying Light" by Henry Porter. This is a story set in the very near future and is all about surveillance - in my opinion a "must-read"! It's a direct descendent of 1984 by George Orwell.

2.  "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin. If The Dying Light is a descendent, then "We" is the father of both Brave New World and 1984. A classic dystopian novel, written I believe in 1927. It's a translation from the Russian and although I found it a little strange to read at first, the style of writing absolutely suits the story. It helps to know that Zamyatin may have had synesthesia as he gave letters and sounds qualities :-)

 3. "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively. A Booker Prize Winner from 1987, this is a superb book. About the life of a woman dying in hospital, the narrative is sometimes written from her point of view, but sometimes from those of the other people in her life. A poignant tale of life, memory, love and loss.

4. "The Novel in the Viola" by Natasha Solomons. This beautifully written second novel from Natasha Solomons, whose first was "Mr Rosenbloom's List", is set in Dorset and tells the story of a young Austrian Jew from a wealthy family who flees her home country shortly before the start of WW2. She goes to work as a maid in a country home and it tells of how she adapts to her new life. A moving story with wonderful descriptions of English country life in the 1930s.

5. "Before I go to Sleep" by SJ Watson. A great pyschological thriller - a "page turner" about a woman suffering from amnesia. She loses her memory again every time she goes to sleep. On the suggestion of a therapist, she starts to keep a journal and finds that all is not what it seems.

6. "Great House" by Nicole Krauss. A neural network of episodes, neither linear nor parallel, but all connected. A book about memories and a desk. Hard to get into but so glad I persisted. Beautifully written.

7. "Chickens Mules and Two Old Fools" by Victoria Twead. A light and lovely read about Victoria and her husband 's move to a little village in the mountains in Andalucia. If you need something that will make you chuckle, as well as green with envy for the life she now leads, this is the book for you!

8. "Brandenburg" by Henry Porter. The second Henry Porter book I read this year, and I will probably go on to read others. This one is a spy thriller set in and around Berlin, shortly before the Wall came down. Great story telling from Porter again.

9. "Never Let me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro. A film of this book was released several months ago. Great story set in a parallel version of England. I don't want to give too much away, so when I am asked what it was about, I say "free range chickens". It's not, but when you've read it, you'll know what I mean! One of these days I'll get around to seeing the film.

10. "The Warsaw Anagrams" by Richard Zimler. I've read all of Zimler's books. This one is set in the Warsaw Ghetto in WW2 and is a murder mystery. I always really enjoy anything this author writes!

Honorable Mentions

Other books I have read recently:

"Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell

"Life Blood" by Thomas Hoover

"Truth Dare Kill" by Gordon Ferris

"The Hare with Amber Eyes" by Edmund de Waal

"War on the Margins" by Libby Cone

"Guerra" by Jason Webster

"Bloody Foreigners" by Robert Winder. This is a history of immigration in England. Everybody in the UK should read this! A compelling and surprisingly easy read. Very interesting!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


I am a frequent visitor to south-west Germany and have always been very impressed by the cleanliness of German streets and towns. One of the places I am seeing a lot of at the moment is a suburb of Karlsruhe, called Waldstadt. Faced with a post-war housing shortage, with thousands of people, including many refugees from the GDR needing homes, the mayor of Karlsruhe, G√ľnther Klotz, came up with the idea of building a new suburb in the Hardwaldt, north of the city centre. Work started in 1957 to build large apartment blocks and houses, providing accommodation for a wide range of income groups.
The whole suburb is inside the forest, and with each apartment block surrounded by taller trees, it is difficult to see directly from one block to another. All are linked by a network of footpaths through the forest. It seems a very pleasant place to live.

Arriving there on Tuesday morning, I noticed large piles of discarded furniture, placed near the refuse collection points, at the ends of the paths, next to the street. I was told that there are occasional collections of these large items that people no longer need. An impressive service, I thought. At home in England I would have to ring the council and pay for the collection of something big like an old sofa or wardrobe that I no longer needed.

Imagine my horror when I walked along the same street a few hours later and witnessed these scenes...

It seems that the refuse collectors decided that some of what they found didn't come under the heading of "large items" and deliberately threw the smaller items around the grassed areas, paths and parking spaces, breaking glass and mirrors, discarding the drawers from inside a freezer, taking the rings off a curtain pole etc etc. I find this sort of petty minded, "jobsworth" attitude totally despicable! What if an elderly person, of whom there are many living in this area, had tripped and fallen on the strewn rubbish? Who would be held responsible for their injury? Do the local "Stadtverwaltung" actually believe that they cannot be held to account?

I somehow think that these refuse collectors would not have dared leave such a mess outside privately owned homes!