Sunday 30 August 2009

Getting on with the House

I have a new floor! And I have a new sofa. All right, I know the door is still off its hinges. Well, not now, but it was when I took the photo.

Hubby's brother came to lay the floor, and it was a pig to do, even though he was a professional floor layer, now retired. I am so grateful. He is a lovely man. It took the two of them more than two days to get it done, all 24 square metres of it, out to the front door.

Here they are hard at it.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Cons and Pros of our Move

I am really slipping here. Just can’t get back into my blogging routine. So sorry. It doesn’t help that things keep going wrong in our new house. It took nearly five weeks to get back online, then yesterday the landline went down. For once BT got it fixed pretty quickly but then my broadband wouldn’t work. According to my service provider, there was something on the BT line that was blocking it, so they had to contact BT about it. Fortunately it’s back again today.

Meanwhile the house is running away with our cash. We’ve found dodgy electrics and dodgy plumbing, a toilet that’s so squashed in it’s almost impossible to sit on, steps in the garden that are just a pile of loose bricks with paving stones parked on top. All the paving in the patios are rocky and one had a deep hole underneath that could have been a disaster for someone. I can’t believe we didn’t notice any of these things before we bought it. I knew we had a lot to do but it’s doubled or tripled since the move.

But the cloud has a silver lining: lots of lovely walks by the sea.

Next time I’ll take my camera so I can show you some of our views.

Friday 21 August 2009

Chinese Propoganda Posters

I recently sold an article at Constant Content for non-exclusive rights. This meant I could place it on a pay per click site as well, so it's now on Helium where I will also get a small upfront payment for it. And I thought it might interest some of you as well. It's all about posters that have been produced and displayed in China. Here's how it starts.

Many countries in the world make use of art for propagandist purposes. China is a master of this, with a flurry of propaganda posters going back to at least the 1930s. This is even before the setting up of the People’s Republic in 1949, with Mao Zedong as President, at the end of the civil war when Chang Kai Shek and the Kuomintang withdrew to Taiwan.

Collectors in the west find these posters fascinating and some change hands for exorbitant prices. A number of dealers operate on the internet, including Hinky Import and In China, you can still pick them up in the antique markets of the cities. But it can be difficult to know if posters are genuine. Some experienced collectors can tell by the look, feel and smell of the paper. Another important aspect is to be aware of recent Chinese history.

That way, you can recognise what the poster is about and whether the details are correct. For example, many posters show people waving the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao’s Quotations. This could not have happened before it was published, so if the poster is dated before 1964, it has to be a fake.

To Western eyes, some of the subjects of these posters can seem inexcusable in view of what was happening in the country at the time they were produced. When Mao Zedong was introducing his new policy on agriculture in his first five year plan starting in 1953, its aim was to transform the rural peasant society into a collective of cooperatives, with farming mechanised and under government control. But those governing were not farmers and often made mistakes. The propaganda messages of good harvests contrasted starkly with the reality of famine and starvation in the rural areas as the years went by.

One of the new policies was an edict to kill sparrows because people in power thought they raided the grain and affected the harvest. A famous propaganda poster shows a young boy aiming with a sling shot, while a girl beside him holds a string of dead trophy sparrows. It was a common pursuit for children of the cooperatives. But in fact, the sparrows fed on the insects that would otherwise feed on the crops. They were important protectors of the fields and when they were hunted out of existence, a plague of locusts devastated the harvest in 1958.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Pic is 1935 poster of Manchukuo State Council of Emperor Kang-de Puyi; uploaded to Wikipaedia by Nickpo.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Swiss Holiday Wish List

I’ve been doing a bit of wishful thinking about holidays again. Don’t laugh. I know I’ve only just got into my new house and I’m thinking of getting away from it already. But whatever your circumstances, it’s always good to have something different to look forward to.

Anyway, I was invited to visit a website that tells you all sorts of things you can do in Switzerland. I’ve made a few forays just inside the country when I stayed with my nephew when he lived in Germany near the black Forest which is just over the Rhine border with Switzerland.

Looking at this website made me curious about the rest of it. It’s a country with three languages – German, Italian and French – and other cultural influences from those three neighbouring countries. But I’m aware of its own reputation for being squeaky clean, having great health clinics, useful bank accounts for stashing cash you don’t want others to know about, beautiful scenery and great skiing.

Then when I looked at the “pearls” of Switzerland ion the site, I found loads of tempting activities I’d never heard of before.

I’d love to visit the Hotel Chesa Rosatsch beside the river in Celerina, and listen to the local tales told to guests as they partake of a cheese fondue meal around the hotel’s open fire.

And I wouldn’t mind saddling my own COW for a three hour ride through the wonderful countryside around the Bolderhof at Hemishofen. I’m not sure how challenging it would be, but it would certainly be quite a change from the horse riding I used to love to do at home.

If I went to Zurich with hubby, we could take in a day’s fishing on Lake Geneva, then dine on our catch in the evening.

Perhaps after that we could take in the city’s spooky ghost tour as night falls.

Next day I could abandon him to find out about history with a feminine perspective on a special ladies’ tour.
I could do that in the Swiss cities of Basel, Geneva, Winterthur and Zug on other occasions too.

Now it’s your turn. Take a moment to Discover Swiss "Pearls" for yourself and let me know which you’d go for if you had the chance.


Saturday 15 August 2009

How British Telecom Failed Me

At long, long last, I am back on line. It’s taken so long because a) BT let me down big time, and b) I wasn’t hot enough on chasing them up. Here’s the story.

On July 1st I called BT and told them of our move and that there was a Sky line in the house we were moving to. They said a BT line would be activated on our moving day and they would send me a text on my mobile informing me of the phone number. I called my Orange broadband provider and was told to call them once I had my new number, after which it would take a couple of weeks to set up the service. So I thought I’d only be offline for two weeks or so.

Our move was accomplished on July 17th as planned. I didn’t think about telephones on that day as we tried to sort ourselves somewhere to sleep that night once we’d been out to eat. The next day I realised I’d not received a text but found a dialling tone on the phone. Thinking BT had just not managed to text me, I used the landline to call my mobile so I could get the number. I then called Orange and was told to call again once the line had been set up for at least 48 hours. The following Monday they still couldn’t find any data on that number with BT. I should try again later. We had a wedding to go to and lots of other things to do so it was three days before I got around to trying again – still no data. They thought the number couldn’t be a BT one.

I called Sky. Oh, yes. The number was part of a package which they’d just been informed should be cancelled. This would happen soon. BT could just take the line over. I called BT. They had no record of me placing an order and the two phone lines at my previous address were still operating

Hang on a minute – I had placed an order on July 1st but it had been cancelled. Cancelled? I hadn’t cancelled it. Well, someone had cancelled it. What did I want them to do now? They could book an engineer to set up the line for me but the first available appointment was in a week’s time. But Sky had said that wouldn’t be necessary. Well, Sky weren’t BT and they had to send out an engineer, at a cost of £120+, although when I placed the order that someone cancelled, I’d been told it wasn’t necessary. In the meantime my previous lines would be stopped over a week after I had moved away from them.

Of course when the engineers came and sorted out the line, they said that Sky got their line from BT anyway, so I bet it hadn’t really been necessary for them to come out at all. They didn’t actually say that, of course, but it was implied. In the meantime, NTL had got in on the act, and the line they found here was one which that company had hacked into. All very confusing and all I understand is that I’m the one that has to pay for it. I’ve even lost my adboxes at Project Wonderful because I haven’t been able to get enough traffic to this site.

Anyway I finally got my phone line and had to contact again everyone who’d been given the previous number. And now, another two weeks on, here I am, very relieved to be back online and able to communicate and get some more work out into the ether.

Well, I knew the likelihood of problems arising after moving house. Of course there are more, but I’m saving those up for later posts.

Fortunately I did have some sales of my showcased work at Constant Content during my down time. I also got my writing star back at Helium without submitting anything, which means I can earn up-front payments there again. So I need to get back to work with a vengeance.

Despite all of these problems, I am now living my dream of a home near the sea, and I can walk to it every day. Whoopee!

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