About this time, people, I should be telling you what the weather is like in Noosa, in sunny Queensland. Apparently, it’s sunny and 29. But all I can give you an eyewitness account for is Melbourne, where after yesterday’s 40-degree scorcher, the mercury is climbing steadily…
When calling the airline to book to another flight, I was told the reason was ‘operational difficulties’. And then I noticed on the website a little notice that says, “Flight times do not form part of your contract of carriage with us. The airline does not guarantee it will be able to carry you and your Baggage in accordance with the date and time of the flights specified.”
Hello? This is an airline. A transport company. Their sole purpose is to get you from A to B. And yet they don’t guarantee it.
Nice one, JetNostar.
Anti-government protests have broken out in Egypt after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
Thousands of protesters are marching through Cairo chanting anti-government slogans, after activists called for a “day of revolt” in a web message.
Riot police have tackled protesters in the capital, using tear gas to try to disperse them.
Further BBC reports say three have been killed in Cairo and Suez in the riots, which were organised via a Facebook page, which today had just under 20,000 supporters, a mere drop when you consider Cairo alone has a population of 20 million. But then, so many of those 20 million are unemployed, illiterate or not even registered with the state as being in existence. Mobile phones are, however, commonplace.
For those out of the ME loop, the demonstrations were inspired by similar riots last week in Tunisia, where the President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has held power for 23 years, was finally ousted, sparked by scenes of citizens setting themselves on fire in protest over corruption that makes their lives unbearable.
In comparison, Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has lead an army-supported rule since 1981, three decades that have seen him unshaken by elections that continue to return him with support in the high 90s percentile, belaying widespread opposition. Egypt was taking notes and has copied Tunisa’s tactics, with people setting themselves alight daily: their actions of course blamed on mental health issues, rather than sheer desperation at their limited, and seemingly unchangeable lives.
Hosny, who is 83 this year and held together possibly only by sheer resolve, army support and a lot of black hair dye, presides over a country riddled with corruption, high unemployment (reflected in no way by the official figures) and sharply rising food prices.
I hate to be pessimistic, but general malcontent, however, seems doomed in the face of solid police and army support for the regime which has afforded these two institutions seemingly limitless powers over the decades since Hosni came to power. On his succession, he immediately put the country on a State of Emergency, following the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, 30 years ago, and the ban has not been lifted since.
This is a big year for Egypt, as Hosny, dogged by ill health, hints he may step down, to be replaced by his son and career bureaucrat, Gamal, a move that must be undertaken while not endangering Egypt’s considerable foreign aid support from the West. We can only hope for a peaceful resolution.
|Gilles Simon’s flapping lime-green shorts.|
January has to be the best month to visit Melbourne. Quite often, the sun is shining, birds are singing. There’s cricket at the MCG, photography exhibitions along the river’s edge, and, more importantly, The Tennis is on.
The Australian Open is the kick-off for a year of international tennis, and the streets are full of fans in various stages of sunburn, clad in sports paraphernalia and body paint, especially if you spot a herd of Croat guys, shirts off and bodies covered in elaborate red, white and blue heraldic flags.
The fashion is on the field, as well. Long black socks, pulled up to the knees (in 40-degree heat), are a definite statement at this year’s tennis, the Williams sisters’ outfits always are under heavy scrutiny, and it was a bit of a shock when French player Gilles Simon strutted his seemingly fragile little legs, clad in apple-green floppy shorts and shoes whose reflectors glittered and flashed as he dashed across the court, losing by the slimmest margin to Roger Federer the other night.
| Riveting sports TV: Czech republic’s Barbora Zahlavova
Strycova has a drink…
The fashion doesn’t always inspire passion: my heart went out to the ballkids (who fetch towels and balls for the gods of world tennis). WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CLOTHES? The poor kids. They run, jump, slide and watch attentively, and their reward? To be clad in the nastiest bile yellow, teamed with shorts in a soft 80s grey, which does nothing for anybody. Add to this the bright blue centre court and the TV lighting, which turns white skin tones to a muted canary yellow, and it’s a visual dog’s bowl out there.
Thank god the tennis was so good (though seeing the perpetually sullen Australian child-woman Jelena Dokic defeated once again by a unseeded, thigh-strapped and strapping Czech, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, made no-one happy).
In the subsequent men’s singles match, the crowd called out between points: ‘Allez Simon!’ or ‘G’arn Fedo!’ (Federer has a loyal Australian following), as the crowd munched on $6 bags of Maltesers to keep its strength up during the five hours of tennis.
The ever-dapper Federer changed his shirt twice during the five sets of tennis, whipping it off quickly and discreetly. The ever-watching cameras and crowd were always ready, wolf-whistles ringing out across the stadium whenever they spotted a glimpse of flesh. Well, it’s not every day you get to whistle a man who has earned $61 million in tennis alone (not counting, of course, his lucrative advertising gains).
It hit 30 degrees on the weekend here in Melbourne. Right. Well, that’s summer out of the way then.
But really, I shouldn’t moan about the weather. I could be up to my armpits in sludgy brown flood water, with swimming cows and snapping crocodiles floating down the main street – to wit poor, soggy Queensland at the moment.
Yet Melbourne, I have to say I’m disappointed you, turning on today’s sporadic rain, grey skies and general morbidity in mid-January. But then sometimes, you get your priorities right. A quick trip into the city while the definitive grudge sport, the Australia v England cricket series, the Ashes, was on, and the streets were full of smug, boozy, benevolent English people. On the tram, an older Englishman gave me his seat, saying, “I don’t normally do so, but I’m feeling quite happy today.” Reader, I took the seat.
While I’m not a cricket tragic, our drubbing was made worse by the fact it was done in mostly miserable weather, which would of course made our northern-hemisphere visitors more comfortable and therefore happier. Then, on the last day of the Melbourne series, the Aussie sun came out and did the job. The English fans were still understandably smug, but now they were at least sunburnt and smug 😉 You takes your revenge where you can gets it…
Tiny Singapore’s shopping is defined by Orchard Road: 2.2km of malls that are linked by sub-subterranean passages, skybridges and subway tunnels so that you can actually visit the city and breathe only air-conditioned oxygen.
But would you really want to?
Get in touch with your inner sweater and hit the streets of Kampong Glam (I loved it before I visited, purely for the name alone), the back streets of Chinatown and pumping Little India.
To read more, click here! You know you want to…
This is so weird, even by Egyptian standards, that I have to share…
The beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, is famed for its diving and snorkelling, wide beaches and high temps. But there has been a snake in paradise, or more specifically, a large shark, which has been terrorising tourists. The score stands at: oceanic whitetip shark 5 (4 injured, 1 killed), humans 0.
The Lovely Andrew sent through a link to an Austrian site quoting the governor of Sinai, Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, who says locals reckon the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad “put the murderous shark in the water to damage Egyptian tourism. [It is an idea that] cannot be ruled out.”
The Accidental Tourist loves a good conspiracy theory, but notes that the Sinai peninsula is flooded with Israeli tourists taking advantage of Egypt’s limping pound, and flock there for cheap sun holidays.
But wait, there’s more, as MCN dropped this little link in my lap from Macedonia Online which states that the shark has since been assassinated by a Serbian tourist, dubbed Shark El Sheikh and now the new hero of Egypt.
While the hero himself, Dragan Stevic, was at the time too drunk to remember what actually happened, his friend Milovan reports that “Dragan climbed on the jumping board, told me to hold his beer and simply ran to jump. There was no time for me to react or to try to stop him, he just went for it.” He jumped, he hit the water, and complained it was too shallow, but in fact had actually landed on the shark’s head, killing it instantly. Who says drinking is bad for you?
Surprisingly, the Egyptian press didn’t run the story, which has since turned out to be a gory hoax, complete with fake pic: apparently this plankton-eating basking shark was snapped in the US, not Egypt.
PS: sorry for the silence over December – this was lurking in drafts for toooo long. Happy New Year all!
“BALFOUR Street, New Farm?” asks the airport bus driver. “Are you sure? There used to be a real rough, scuzzy backpackers’ down there.”
“No, really. There’s a new hotel and it’s supposed to be quite swish,” I assure him. The rest of the minibus has its ears open, so it’s with a flourish the garrulous driver pulls up in front of the wide verandahs of an urbane-looking Queenslander and declares: “Well, that’s a turn-up for the books. Not bad looking at all.”
click here to read more about Spicers Balfour, in Brisbane. Yes, Brisbane.