Downfall : hardly a conventional biopic but a penetrating insight into the minds of Hitler and some of his acolytes as the Third Reich crumbled.
Best Novel read
Saturday (Ian McEwan)
Spiked, asserts that both cases are the same:
"both [ Irving and Pamuk ]could be incarcerated, not for physically harming another person or for damaging property, but for the words they spoke; both could have their liberty removed because they expressed views that the authorities - in Turkey and Austria - decree to be distasteful. And both of their trials are an outrage against the principle of free speech. You may or may not agree with what Pamuk said, and you probably are disgusted by Irving's weasel words. But this isn't about what either author said; it is about whether they should have the right to say it, and we should have the right to hear it. Freedom of speech, as its name suggests, does not mean freedom for views that go down well in polite society but not for views that stink: it means freedom for all speech, the freedom to think, say and write what we please and the freedom of everyone else to challenge or ridicule our arguments."
In today's Hurriyet the Turkish Justice Minister is reported as saying of the Pamuk case "All we need is democratic patience", whatever that means, though he "declined to give details of steps to be taken on the issue".
"Democratic patience" has, like most doublespeak, a bland fuzziness about it. Does it really mean "undemocratic impatience"? This would seem to be more in tune with the current environment of fear and anti-terror legislation.
The decision may not stand for long though http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1927540,00.html
Does one need a PhD in industrial design to suggest that the rear platform could be modified to accommodate a wheelchair or two?
The companies who have grasped the opportunity to buy surplus Routemasters for a song and convert them into mobile bars etc have certainly shown a bit more initiative than Transport for London.
The real reason for the phasing out is shown in this photo, which I took in May this year: it is cheaper to replace one human being with an automated ticketing system and several security cameras.
Has anyone considered the potential security benefits of having a human observer to monitor passenger behaviour?
I did not ask, not was I told, how much of each dollar raised this way actually ended up with Oxfam.
An outline of my Great Northern Expedition (GNE) in August and September 2005.
Photos - clockwise from top left: On the (unsealed) road again somewhere in the outback; Gregory Downs Hotel (the pub with no beer); Plunge pool Florence Falls Litchfield NP; Getting my feet wet in the Gulf of Carpentaria at Karumba
Day 1: Adelaide - Marree
Early start (by my standards). Rendezvoused with Tony, Coral and their vehicle (1992 Suzuki Vitara wagon similar to mine) then travelled to Quorn where we collected Rolf, Judy and their vehicle (late model Pathfinder).
Headed north. Each of us had a UHF radio but mine had a limited range, so a combination of this and my slow driving meant that we parted company when the others ducked into the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna. I ended up at Marree at dusk, wondering where they had got to. Decided to stay in one of the two caravan parks for the night.
Kms driven: 697.
Day 2: Marree - Tippipilla Creek
Fortunately the lost souls appeared in the morning, having spent the night at Farina some distance back down the track.
We set out along the Birdsville Track, which was in very good nick for an unsealed road. There had obviously been a fair amount of rain recently as there were occasional puddles of water on the road and the grass was tinged with green. We passed a cyclist heading south: he said that he travelled 42 to 92 kms a day depending on which way the wind was blowing.
We stopped at Cooper Creek which, notwithstanding the recent rain, was dry and Mungerannie, where the Derwent River (not marked on many maps) trickled across the road.
Driving on, we stopped for the night on the gibber plain at Tippipilla Creek.
Kms driven: 347.
Day 3: Tippipilla Creek - Birdsville
A relatively brisk run into Birdsville, stopping to inspect the racecourse which was being readied for the annual race meeting.
The town is laid out on a grid pattern and has a good range of facilities including a couple of public internet cafes, a bakery, library and a grassed oval.
After pitching our tents in the caravan park (I took longer than the others as it was very windy) we drove out to Big Red, reputedly the largest sandhill in the Simpson Desert. Rolf and Tony both drove up it easily. I didn't even try but did climb it (see photo elsewhere on blog).
Kms driven: 264.
Day 4: Birdsville - roadside camp south of Boulia
Drove north on road which interspersed some sealed stretches with unsealed ones. Stopped at Bedourie, another small town with an impressive array of facilities, for lunch, then onwards towards Boulia.
At night camped by a waterhole or river not far from a herd of cattle being driven/ drove (?).
Kms driven: 327.
Day 5: On to Mt Isa
The cattle passed us before we started. We overtook them some way up the road: the motorcycle drovers were moving them along at a good clip.
My car was a bit sluggish so the mechanical experts Rolf and Tony looked under the bonnet and identified a malfunctioning lead as the cause of the problem. They made a temporary repair, which lasted until Boulia when further work was required. Fuel consumption increased significantly during this time (from about 8 to 10 litres/ 100km).
At Boulia we went to the Min Min exhibition a series of graphic exhibits about the legendary Min Min (a bright light which is reputed to appear at random in the district).
From Boulia the road to Mt Isa was sealed, albeit only one lane, which meant that we had to pull over whenever a vehicle approached us.
Stopped at Dajarra, a town which like many in the outback had obviously seen better days, then moved to Mt Isa.
Kms driven: 394.
Day 6: Mt Isa sightseeing
Kms driven: 19.
Day 7: Mt Isa - Adel's Grove (near Lawn Hill)
West along the bitumen towards Camooweal, then north along a road which became unsealed and progressively worse.
Two river crossings.
Riversleigh: disappointing because of lack of signage.
Adel's Grove: camped on the lower level amid rainforest trees. Info leaflet warned of all sorts of creepy crawlies esp snakes but didn't see any.
Kms driven: 334
Day 8: Lawn Hill
Walked, canoed, swam. Idyllic.
At night listened intermittently to cricket. Also heard noise of trucks in background which turned out to be from (relatively) nearby Century mine.
Kms driven: 22
Day 9: Adel's Grove - Gregory River
Back on the rough roads but hit the bitumen again at Gregory Downs, where the pub had no beer for sale on account of licence having been suspended for some unspecified reason.
Camped on banks of Gregory River c 20kms south of pub. Another idyllic site.
Kms driven: 114
Day 10: Gregory River - Normanton
Bitumen most of the way. Stopped to help a young woman whose car had broken down.
Kms driven: 392
Day 11: Normanton - Karumba
Day trip to Karumba.
Kms driven: 191
Day 12: Normanton - Croydon by rail and bus
Kms driven: 4
Kms travelled: c 300 (roughly half by train).
Day 13: Normanton - Camooweal
Took my leave of the others and headed south, then west. Sealed road all the way so made reasonable time and was able to reach Camooweal, which was better than i expected.
Kms driven: 711.
Day 14: Camooweal - near Daly Waters
Breakfasted at Camooweal Hotel then set off into the Northern Territory: my second visit and each time have entered from Queensland.
A long slog of a drive, not without some interesting sights, though these were generally a long way apart.
Camped overnight in caravan park at junction of Stuart and Carpentaria Highways.
Kms driven: 847.
Day 15: Daly Waters - Birdum
Arrived at Larrimah to join Birdum Alive in 2005 group. Drove with others over a very rough and at times indistinct track to old Birdum site. Pitched tent, looked around, rode to Larrimah Hotel on fettlers' trolley (railway track still in good condition) to replenish liquid supplies.
At night music under the stars.
Kms driven: 115
Day 16: Birdum - Coolalinga
Slow start in morning, despite a good night's sleep, and got back onto the highway at about midday.
Stopped for an hour at Katherine and briefly at Pine Creek and Adelaide River.
Caravan park quite full but I unrolled my swag under a light and went quickly to sleep, disturbed only by a few spots of rain.
Kms driven: 496.
Day 17: Coolalinga - Darwin - Litchfield NP
Drove to Darwin, replenished supplies and then headed south.
Arrived at Litchfield early afternoon, chose campsite at Florence Falls 2WD, drove to Wangi Falls and back, then descended the 135 steps (I counted them) to the plunge pool. Great.
Again early to bed.
Kms driven: 252.
Day 18: Litchfield NP - Tennant Creek
Rose before dawn and surprised myself by getting on the road at 7.06am. I wasn't the only person by any means on the road to the Batchelor turnoff, so I shouldn't be too cocky about the relatively early start.
I set out with an open mind, trying to drive as far as I could in the day (not the night) and expecting to take either three or four days to get to Adelaide. As it turned out I was able without driving too quickly (100 - 110km/ hr) to reach Tennant Creek in the gloaming at 6.30pm.
Kms driven: 985.
Day 19: Tennant Creek - Marla
Another long haul, starting at 7.05 am and finishing at Marla at just before 7pm. Stopped for about an hour in Alice Springs, with briefer halts at Barrow Creek, Ti Tree and Kulgera.
Kms driven: 985 (again).
Day 20: Marla - Adelaide
A very long haul. Arrived home at 9.15pm, having missed only the first session of the final test. I was too tired to watch much more. In retrospect it was a mistake to drive back through the Clare Valley: certainly a much more scenic route (the countryside was very green) but the road was serpentine and each small town necessitated a speed reduction. I'd forgotten how many towns there were in the Clare Valley.
I probably overdid this leg, and while I never came near to falling asleep at the wheel I did stop a couple of times on the last leg and jogged about outside the car to refocus myself.
At no stage during any of the three days did I drink while driving (though a can or two of light beer were most welcome at the end of days 1 and 2).
Kms driven: 1138.
Total trip kms driven: 8624.
Fuel economy: approx 8.2 litres/ 100km (32 mpg).