A break in Slovenia to visit Lake Bled and Ljubljana

October 10th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

For many years now, top of my bucket list has been, for as long as I have the health and wealth, to have visited as many countries as my age. I am currently 73 and I’ve visited a total of 77 countries.

Of course, as for everyone on the planet, the global pandemic has severely curtailed my travelling. It’s now two years since I’ve been abroad and I’m really keen to travel again. Since the pandemic is far from over, I don’t feel confident enough yet to travel outside Europe and I always like to travel to a new country, so I’m off now to Slovenia – my 78th country.

Slovenia is a tiny nation – just 2.1 million (I live in London which has a population of 8 million). Between the two world wars, it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In the Second World War, it was occupied by the Germans, Italians and Hungarians. Between 1945 and 1991, it was part of the former Yugoslavia, but it is now a member of the European Union and the Eurozone.

The first half of my holiday will be at Lake Bled. Located in the northwest of Slovenia, Bled is well placed on the edge of a former volcanic lake in the shadow of the picturesque medieval Bled Castle. Apparently this fairy-tale castle, high up on the bluff, houses an expensive restaurant and a museum detailing the area’s history.

In the western part of the lake is Bled Island, which has been the site of a Christian church since the 9th century. I understand that it has become customary for lovers to swim out to the island and ring the church bell, but I’ll probably give that a miss.

The second half of my holiday will be in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. This is more of a quaint provincial town than a capital with a population of just 300,000 (about the size of a London borough). There are many cafés and bars that pack the main square, Presernov Trg.

A funicular goes up to Ljubljana Castle, which dominates the skyline, and the Cathedral of St Nicholas with its classic twin towers. One can cross from the world of the living to the dead through the monumental arch of Zale Cemetery which is described as one of Europe’s prettiest cemeteries.

Note: Slovenia is not to be confused with Slovakia or Slavonia or Slavinia (check them out).

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Word of the day: disinformation

October 8th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

Disinformation is a subset of propaganda and is false information that is spread deliberately to deceive . It is also known as black propaganda.

It is sometimes confused with misinformation which is false information but is not deliberate.

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The growing death toll from covid in the UK

October 7th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

It troubles me that the announcement each day of the previous day’s deaths from Covid-19 disguises the size of the cumulative figure.

The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive covid test now totals 137,417. The number of deaths with covid 19 mentioned on the death certificate now totals 160,824.

These figures compare with the suggestion at the start of the pandemic that “a good result” would be 20,000 deaths. What has happened – and is still happening – is both a tragedy and a disgrace.

The way things are going the final death toll in the UK will not be that much less than the cost of the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. That pandemic killed an estimated 228,000.

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Word of the day: immiserate

October 6th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

I’m reading a book called “Exponential” by Azeem Azhar, someone I used to know when we sat together as members of Ofcom’s Consumer Panel.

One of his favourite words – one I’ve hardly seen before- is ‘immiserate’, a verb meaning to make miserable or to cause to become impoverished.

It seems that many new technologies will cause much immiseration.

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Word of the day: tchotchke

October 5th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

tchotchke is a small bric-à-brac or miscellaneous item. The word has long been used by Jewish-Americans and in the regional speech of New York City and elsewhere. It is Yiddish in origin.

The word may also refer to free promotional items dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar commercial events. They can also be sold as cheap souvenirs in tourist areas, which are sometimes called “tchotchke shops”.

I only just came across this word for the first time in a book on technological change.

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Word of the day: hecatomb

October 4th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

Say what you like about British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – and I’ve said a lot that is not complimentary – but his Oxford University education has given him an impressive vocabulary.

In an interview this week about shortages in the British marketplace, he commented: “If I may say so, the great hecatomb of pigs that you describe has not yet actually taken place. Let’s see what happens.” This is the Prime Minister, playing down fears of a mass culls of pigs at farms because of a lack of abattoir workers and doing so with a word not on the lips of every member of the electorate.

In ancient Greece or Rome, the term hecatomb referred to any great public sacrifice and feast, originally one in which 100 oxen were sacrificed.

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Binge-watching the BBC series “Vigil”

October 4th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

I spent the evenings this weekend binge-watching the six hour-long episodes of the BBC television series “Vigil“, a murder mystery set substantially on a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarine of Britain’s Royal Navy – an original and inventive plot device. I really enjoyed it and, if you did too, you might like to read this analysis of the finale from the “Guardian”.

The series has had its critics.

People say that a Vanguard-class submarine does not look like the boat depicted in the programme. Personally I’ve never been on a nuclear submarine, so I wouldn’t know. In any event, if the filming crews needed a bit more room and more visual impact for shooting the scenes aboard the vessel, I think that’s acceptable artistic licence.

Others insist that the plot was implausible and it did not reflect real life. Honestly, fiction television would be very boring if everything had to be totally plausible and reflect real life. The regular plot twists made the six episodes compulsive viewing.

I found the series entertaining and credible enough that, if offered a `tour of duty on a Vanguard submarine, I would politely decline.

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A review of the eagerly-awaited James Bond movie “No Time To Die”

October 3rd, 2021 by Roger Darlington

The release of this 25th feature in the official James Bond franchise was successively postponed for a total of a year and a half as a result of the global pandemic and it comes no less than six years after the last 007 film, so we’ve waited a long time for this.

For lovers of new action movies like me, the period since the coronavirus has been a lean time with really only “Tenet”, “Black Widow” and “Shang-Chi” easing the drought, therefore “No Time To Die” is so very welcome. I made a point of seeing it in IMAX on Britain’s largest screen and the audience applauded at start and finish. 

At 2 hours 43 minutes, it’s the longest Bond film and could have done with a bit of trimming, but the risk of taking on director Cary Joji Fukunaga (after more experienced Danny Boyle pulled out) has really paid off. All the traditional ingredients are there.

The megalomanic villain: the not-so-subtly named Lyutsifer Safin played by Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) who plans to use nanobots to take over the world (I know …). The exotic locations: such as Matera in Italy and various parts of Norway. The chases: a high-powered motor bike and the formidable Aston Martin DB5.

Inevitably, after a franchise spanning half a century, there are echoes of other Bond films, most notably narrative, dialogue and music referencing one particular earlier 007 movie. What is different – and this has been developed over the recent Bond movies – is the updating of the British spy to a more caring, emotionally vulnerable man.

“No Time To Die” will not do as spectacularly well at the box office as “Skyfall” and “Spectre” but should exceed the takings of “Casino Royale” and “Quantum Of Solace” and the five movies together have been a tribute to Daniel Craig’s wonderful wearing of the 007 mantle with his final outing in the role a fitting finale to this joyous ride. 

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“We’ve been waiting for you, Mr Bond”

September 26th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

Thanks to the global pandemic, the release of the new (25th) James Bond movie, “No Time To Die”, has been postponed again and again and there have been no less than three trailers.

But this week, the film finally has its cinema release. If you’d like to remind yourself what we’ve been missing, you can read my review of “Spectre” here.

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A review of the classic 1967 film “The Graduate”

September 25th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

In its day – I was an undergraduate when the film was released and I first viewed it – this was seen as something of a daring work depicting sex in the suburbs between different generations. It is a sharp piece of social commentary – a critical look at the American middle class – disguised as a kind of rom-com.

I say ‘a kind of’ because the central relationship is transactional rather than romantic (the romance comes rather later in the narrative) and the comedy is often somewhat surreal (the eponymous young man decked out in underwater gear or banishing a crucifix as a weapon). Based on a novel by Charles Webb, there is some memorable dialogue including my favourite lines: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … Are you listening? … Plastics”.

In his break-out role, young Dustin Hoffman plays 21 year old Benjamin Braddock and this proved to be just the start of an illustrious movie career. His temptress is Anne Bancroft who makes the most of some wonderful lines as Mrs Robinson. The young daughter of Mrs Robinson is portrayed by newcomer Katherine Ross whose later career was mostly in television.

The movie was only the second directorial outing for Mike Nicholls but he impresses with a variety of of cinematic tricks, perhaps the most memorable being a shot of Ben framed by the raised naked leg of Mrs Robinson. Another distinguishing feature of this enjoyable film is the use of songs by Simon & Garfunkel including the catchy “Mrs Robinson”. So all the elements of a classic.

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