Laura Norder in London

In recent months the British capital has been preoccupied with the issue of knife crime, and after several recent high profile attacks, this form of disgustingly petty crime has even superceded terrorism as Scotland Yard’s top law and order priority. It is tragic considering the circumstances, but also interesting that the global security bug-bear of the past five years has been so swiftly and so unceremoniously relegated to the backseat. One wonders if the global strategists and commentators who have gone dined out in recent years on the challenges posed by Islamic fundamentalism and Al’Qaeda will now turn their hands and minds to crime of a more conventional variety.

Although admittedly I have been lucky to have scarce exposure to it myself, recently I have been provided with direct cause for concern about crime levels in London. Walking home from work the other day I arrived on a street corner in just enough time to see a tall, muscular African man strike a woman with full-force in the face, knocking her to the ground. The man fled the scene with a companion, and myself and a group of startled onlookers approached the woman and called the police. It was unclear what the reason for the assault was, but the woman’s glasses had been shattered by the force of the man’s blow, sending shards of glass into the face and one of her eyes. Fortunately it was not too long before the police and an ambulance arrived, and we believe the attackers were apprehended.

It was a strange experience because it was both shocking and yet, scratching a little deeper, not too surprising. We all see the stories on the nightly news, and read about them in newspapers and magazines. When we are reminded that these stories are real and play havoc with real people’s lives, it disturbs us and provides some food for thought about the real state of society today. In the developed world at least, we may well be living in more civilised societies than ever before, but I sincerely doubt that thought provides any comfort to the random victims of modern society’s vices – who, let’s not kid ourselves – are still out there and all around us. Realistically, only lady luck excludes us from being part of the main story.


Avon calling…




Trivia fact: most people who know of the river Avon in Britain likely know of it in relation to Stratford-upon-Avon, famous as the birthplace of a little-known chap named William Shakespeare. In actual fact however, there are seven rivers Avon across the United Kingdom, and each is distinct and separate.

So why are they all called Avon? Avon is Celtic for river.

Small things can make a big difference



These photos from the streets of Copenhagen, the Danish capital. Such a simple idea, but such a good idea. The timed traffic lights tell pedestrians how long they have to wait to cross if the lights are red, and how much time they have left to cross if the lights are green. It’s predominantly the little clever touches like this that give the Scandinavians their well-deserved reputation as world leaders when it comes to common sense in urban planning and making life just that bit more livable.

Out again

This weekend I will be once again out of town and out of the Internet. Service will resume Tuesday morning AEST.

Until then, tips as to who will win Euro 2008 and guesses as to where the hell I am off to will be accepted.

Auf Wiedersehen… gesundheit!

This weekend is a long weekend in the fair United Kingdom, and hence for the first time in a little while at least I will be vacating the country. The destination this time around is Berlin, which should prove an interesting destination indeed. I am particularly enthused about just being there amongst all the tragic and dramatic history that has unfolded over the last century. The Jewish Museum and Checkpoint Charlie Haus should be fascinating, and I am also looking forward to getting out to Potsdam, of Potsdam Conference infamy.

I won’t have access to the Internet until Tuesday (when service will resume), but next week after I return I may deign to pose a few happy snaps. In the meantime, take care and do have a good weekend.


Some family have come to visit from Australia, and so for the next week, I am going to be out and about with them around these parts and will not be posting. Until then, take care and TTFN.

Travel meme #8: Trip the light fantastic

Travel has been a great educator. I had never heard of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona while in Australia, but it truly is an astonishing site, and for my money, one of the top two or three most fascinating churches in the world. The extraordinary facade, concocted by mad Spanish architect-prince Antoni Gaudi looks like it is a CGI graphic that has been super-imposed on the real world. The tall, arched stained glass windows let in a pretty amazing kaleidoscope of colours, creating a place of beauty in a way that very few places of worship I have seen do. And to top it all off, the church is still after about a century, a work in progress. Even today, it seems the church is 50% construction site, and 50% place of worship, started in 1891, and scheduled (perhaps optimistically) to conclude in 2026.

Astonishing. Go there.


Continue reading

Travel meme #7: An old profession

I am not sure I am happy or sad about some of the jobs that tourism creates. Everywhere we have gone on our travels we have seen both the good that tourism brings and the strange developments it fosters. I am not sure whether I should feel happy, sad or indifferent about the fact that this chap in Rome needs to cavort around as someone from Ancient Rome to make a buck. Well might we say that tourism has provided him with a source of income. Well might we wonder whether there might not be better things folks like him could be doing in early Winter when tourist numbers are down. I wonder how he conceptualises it all – is it a way to make a few extra euros on the side, or is he forced into doing it through desperation and circumstances? Is it a laugh, or does he hate it to death?

Should I feel bad that I really don’t want a photo with him, even though I wonder whether I as a relatively wealthy tourist should be helping him out?


Continue reading