Friday, 30 November 2012

Santiago Montes 1911-1954

Some years ago a close friend of ours in Laredo, Miguel Angel Montes, told us the story of his father Santiago Montes, who was hidden from the the Nationalist police for many years during the Spanish Civil War. While in hiding Santiago learned how to paint and in particular how to make copies of old masters. I felt that this story needed a wider audience and we decided to put together a web page

Here is an excerpt from the web page:

In July of 1936, the Spanish Civil War affects the life of Santiago, who fights on the side of the  Republican Government. When the Nationalists are about to take the city of Santander, he joins the Republican exodus of political exiles to France, but is unable to make it onto the available departing ships.
Santiago uses his skills to repair an unused boat so that a group of Republicans can sail to France, and to safety, as the Franco forces invade Santander.
While Santiago retrieves his rucksack from his home, the boat sails, leaving him stranded.

Read more at where I have recently added pages from an album of portraits which were done in prison by Santiago Montes.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

2012 - Year of Turing Anniversary

I have a bit of an empathy with Alan Turing..he was a pioneer in the field of computers and has always been an inspirational figure.
So what do I have in common with Alan Turing, you might wonder.
Well, the other day a mathematician friend Luis, who works at the University of Cantabria in Santander, suggested that I might want to exhibit my fractals at the Faculty of Science, because this year they were celebrating the Alan Turing anniversary during their Science Week. He convinced the faculty chiefs that this would be a good thing and having cut short our trip to the orient, I was in time to participate and exhibit my fractal images.
Printing of a few images were hastily arranged and today Marisol and I arrived at the venue early to put up the exhibits!

So I am honoured to be in someway associated with this most famous of figures from the computer world.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Travels 2012 - Bangkok - days 19 to 28

We arrive in Bangkok without any hiccups and a half hour high speed and very cheap taxi ride later we are at our hotel where we will stay for the next 9 nights.  Our first outing is to the nearby well known outdoor market called 'patpong'. Place is full of the usual copies stalls  but after all those trips to China we no longer have  the urge to acquire any more watches or bags and its hot like hell. There are also a few go-go girls and men are trying to entice us into back rooms for what is labelled  'ping pong' with sexual overtones. Fortunately we have seen similar seedy scams in China, so we steer clear of those. Later we learn from another Spanish couple that they got stung for large sums of money and had to fight to get out. Phew!

The next day we head for the more promising Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Budha. This is a stunning site, the palace architecture is very Siamese, and lovely. it has been obviously kept well maintained, and although much of the interior is closed to the public the exterior is worth seeing. The temple is a great structure, but the Budha statue is tiny and looks insignificant for the size of the hall of the temple.
Then come some small museums, and in one of these, there is a room where we have to remove our shoes, and go up some stairs. Afterwards when we try to recover our shoes, I am horrified to find that someone has pinched mine! There are some pathetic looking flip-flops in their place, probably the robber's footwear, but I don't want those. Instead I walk around barefoot, including walking the streets, although this shocks a few people and is quite a strain on my feet in the heat.
Then follow a few days of intense site seeing which includes a trip to the old capital of Siam called Ayothya, which has some beautifully restored palaces with buildings of Victorian architecture influenced by a trip to Europe by the King. The palaces have beautiful gardens and temple buildings, and the area is full of ancient monuments from the old times. This must have been a spectacular capital, and is now a world heritage site. The trip is concluded by a buffet lunch on a river cruise to take us slowly back to Bangkok.

Then there are more temples to see including the one with the huge reclining Budha, and some others with some spectacularly high statues of Budha. We decide to take in an evening show which promises to be good, as it is staged in a theatre which is listed in the Guinness book of Records, for its big stage. It turns out to be spectacular, with no expense spared, and there are hundreds in the cast, who recount some key themes in the Thai culture in three parts. The stage has flying people, huge mythical figures, entire ships cris-crossing the stage, at one point there is a river flowing through the stage with lightening and rain. Its something out of Hollywood, or the theatres of Las Vegas. Outside there is a replica of an old Thai village, with a canal boat ride and many quaint features of village life. All very pleasant.
Appropriately we have our bouts of Bangkok Belly, but recover just in time for a long anticipated Indian meal at a Punjabi by Nature restaurant that we noticed on the day of our arrival! The meal is miraculous Delhi food, Golguppe, Aloo Tiki chat and many other mouth watering dishes are on the menu and this meal makes up in a small way for the disappointment of not being able to go to Delhi.
We will be back.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Travels 2012 - Dubai - days 11 to 18

Travels 2012 - Dubai - days 11 to 18
So we arrived in Dubai after a few hours of fun and games on the Emitates flight from London. The plane arrived late from an earlier flight so it was on a 'remote stand'. It took the 600 passengers about 2 hours to board the plane by bus! We were late .. the inflight entertainment was daunting with a thousand channels.. the customs agent said to Marisol, Madrid or Barca (Madrid) .. a short taxi ride with the most spectacular Dubai skyline, and we arrive at Maya and Steve's house! We have not seen them for over ten years so its a nice meeting.
                                          Dubai Skyline
On a whim we decide to call the Indian counslate to check the status of Marisol's Indian visa, and discover that all is not well with her PIO card (Person of Indian Origin). We try all alternatives including getting a new visa but nothing works unless we want to hang out in Dubai for a month!
So the Indian leg of our trip will have to wait for the next time and we hastily reorganise our flights and hotels. Then we start going around Dubai. So many tall buildings including Burj Khalifa, the tallest in the world. We reunite with old friends Rima and Mustapha, who are seeking a refuge here from their native Damascus..

The number of shopping malls, luxury hotels is staggering. People must have a lot of money here, although in the old part of town there is also an air of decay that one finds where large population of Indians exist. The Emirates mall is huge, incorporating a huge aquarium, and a comlete ski slope.
On one of our outings we head for the old part and in an attempt to park the car end up near the canal that runs through Dubai. The sun is scorching and we walk around looking for shadows. Suddenly a Sikh man appears and we are ablle to hire a boat, and head for our destination in style sitting on deck enjoying a cruise on the water.
The museum is housed in an old style building complete with wind towers. The speed of change is remarkable. We learn that all the skyline of Dubai has appeared in the last 15 years and Dubai has virtually no history.
Dubai swimsuits on display at a department store

Over the next few days we eat a lot at exotic Indian, and Persian restaurants, with our friends, their friends and we meet Lara, who is on a work related trip from Sydney, where we last saw her a couple of years ago. We take in the huge development at the Palm and the Burj hotel where Steve was project manager a few years ago.
Finally the saturday arrives and we take our leave and in the early morning take a cab and head for the airport and take a flight to our next stop, Bangkok.