Thursday 25 December 2008

Time For Britain to Join the Euro

Originally uploaded by malias.

With the pound plummeting on the foreign exchange markets it seems that now is the perfect moment for the UK to join the Euro. Currently the pound and the Euro are worth practically the same. Couldn’t we just hand in all our grimy, pennies, shillings and pounds and get the exact same number of shiny new Euros in return?

I know it’s unlikely as it would be disagreeable to too many British people but I for one am in favour. All that hassle and expense at the bureau de change every time I hop over to blighty for a cup of rosie lea and a packet of twiglets. It’s enough to turn your beer cold!

I’m in London at the moment and with the collapse of the pound the UK is a cheap destination for visitors. The shops in central London are full of Europeans in search of a bargain. If you wish to practise, your French, Spanish or German no need to soil your boots on the other side of the channel any more just take the tube to Oxford Circus.

Old Fashioned Ways

The Archer
Originally uploaded by malias.

As a diehard geek with many years working in the front line of innovation I love to embrace new ways of tackling old tasks. However, one annoying trend that’s becoming standard practice at this time of year is the Dear-everybody-in-my-entire-address-book (most of whom I don’t even remember) merry Christmas/happy New Year email.

In two minutes and a single click you can write a message to everyone you’ve known in the last 15 years. Why even bother? I hark back to those leisurely pre-web days when we hand wrote seasonal cards one by one with a unique message for each person. And when you received one it actually meant something.

Call me a luddite but some things at least were done better in the olden days before the internet. Just don’t get me started on the Spinning Jenny.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Montmartre as you've never seen it (probably)

Montmartre is one of the first destinations for any visitor of Paris. From the steps of Sacre Coeur you get a breathtaking view of the whole of Paris and in the winding streets in the adjoining neighbourhood once frequented by Van Gogh, Renoir and Toulouse Latrec amongst many others you feel the history and charm of Paris’ best loved neighbourhood.

However, one of the big problems is that Montmartre is a victim of its own success. Turn up on any evening and the place is flooded with tourists from all over the world. On the Place du Tetre it’s heaving, from behind their easels portrait artists hound passers-by, the over priced cafes are bursting at the seams and the sound of clicking camera equipment never ceases.

I was surprised when one Saturday afternoon in autumn I received a phone call from my friend Igor inviting me to join him on a walk around Montmartre at 8am on Sunday morning. My first reaction was “you must be crazy”, but he was very persistant and eventually I reluctantly agreed.

Here is the astonishing thing, at 8am Montmartre is a completely different place, a place that few tourists chance to see. It’s deserted and you have virtually the whole area to yourself. You can walk along those lovely streets unmolested. In the place du Tetre life is just beginning to stir. The cafes are setting up and the portrait artists are just emerging from wherever portrait artists emerge from. You might want to sit a while as the first customer and enjoy (a still overpriced) coffee and take in the scene. It’s a real treat but get out of there by 9am when the hordes start to arrive.