BELGRADE: The Fortress

Belgrade – VIJAY SHAH via TARA GOLDSMITH and ReadyClickAndGo

While the capital of Serbia is not the first place that comes to mind for many when they think of a holiday destination with culture, history and impressive sights, Belgrade is in some ways an undiscovered treasure for those looking for something a bit different, but still ticking all the boxes.

Belgrade, known to its residents as ‘Beograd’, has an ancient history of settlement dating back to the Roman Empire. It was ravaged by the hordes of the Huns, and became an outpost of the Turkish Ottoman empire. In latter years, it was the capital of the Communist union of Yugoslavia, and saw much fighting, bloodshed and bombing during the collapse of that country in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade, Belgrade was bombed by NATO forces during the independence war of Kosovo. After all that mayhem, Belgrade has reinvented itself as a hip city of fashion, art and music that attracts young European things like wasps to honey.

Even with the modernisation and revamping characteristic of Belgrade now, the city has not let go of its history. Of particular importance is what is called by English-speaking tourists the Fortress. Located on the right bank of the Sava river which cuts through the city, the Fortress is chunky, stony and covers a great area of land, an inspiring monolith of masonry. The complex is said to be the final resting place of the great marauder and general Attila the Hun and was once the greatest military fortification in all of Europe.

The Fortress predates the Hun though. It was built in fact by the Romans who needed a strong fortification on the eastern fringes of their expansive empire to protect against tribes looking to overrun the territory. It was at first a Roman military camp and the largest structure in Belgrade’s ancestor, known in Latin as ‘Singidunum’.

 

After repeated incursions, the Ottoman forces overran Belgrade in 1521. Impressed by the magnitude of Belgrade’s Fortress, the Turks rechristened it Kalemegdan (or in modern Turkish “Kalemeydan”, (kale – city and megdan – field) and added two structures, the first being the fountain of Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the other the tomb of Damad Ali Pasha.

Over the years, the fortress became a hot potato, constantly passing between the rule of the Turks and the Austrians. The Austrians also added some cosmetic changes to the Fortress, mainly to its outer wall. The Turks were said to have preferred the local white rock (that is said to have given Belgrade its name) for their renovations, while the Austrians opted for traditional red brick. 

From being a military showpiece contested by regional powers, the Fortress wound up with a less dignified role centuries later. As Yugoslavia dwindled in size in the 1990s, local entrepreneurs turned the Fortress into a nightclub, playing probably house music inside a castle, you could say. Eventually the city government renegotiated the terms of use, and the Fortress was reborn as a local tourist icon and a museum.

The Fortress is split into four parts linked together via eighteen gates in total. The Fortress is large enough that it is considered as two phases, the Upper and Lower Towns, which are home to Orthodox churches, a planetarium, an apparently claustrophobic World War II bunker, and various monuments and museums.

Highlights available to visit today at the Fortress of Belgrade include a collection of Roman sarcophagi, gravestones and Christian church alters brought in from all of Serbia, the National Museum’s Collection of Stone Monuments. The Roman Well (which was actually built by the Austrians with their usual red bricks) was built for water supplies for troops, can be visited for a fee. There is also a clock tower and the 500-year-old Nebojsa Tower, built for the unsuccessful defence strategy against the Ottomans. Indeed the Fortress is essentially a combination of monuments of historical importance, museums, places of interest, religious buildings and parks, mostly with free entry and reasonable opening times. The fortress is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

SOURCES:

Listed@DrStephanieLang, Dr. Stephanie Lang, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/DrStephanieLang/lists/listed-drstephanielang

First Night Design, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/FirstNightArt

TaraGoldsmith, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Best_of_Tara

“BELGRADE FORTRESS” – Tara Goldsmith, ReadyClickAndGo Private Day Trips/ReadyClickAndGo (26 June 2015) https://www.readyclickandgo.com/blog/belgrade-fortress/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Belgrade Fortress, once one of the most powerful military strongholds of Europe” – Jorge Láscar, Flickr (20 August 2012) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/13810353553

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VOTES FOR WOMEN WEEKEND: London museum marks key democratic milestone

London – VIJAY SHAH via sources

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of British women winning the right to vote in elections, the Museum of London is hosting the Votes for Women Weekend from today in honour of women’s suffrage, featuring various participatory activities for people of all ages, the magazine Skint London writes.

The event, which is being held over two days from 3-4 February, 2018 and is free entry, promises to be an immersive and fun experience celebrating this key milestone in universal suffrage, when women over the age of thirty finally won the right to help choose who governs us, after a long struggle.

 

Votes for Women Weekend will feature lots of performances, photography, workshops, poetry and other things to do. Visitors can take part in a re-enactment of a suffragette rally, which also has a trip through history to the present day, and a two-hour long ‘banner-thon’ where they can create their own digital banners in collaboration with the charity Digital Drama’s 100 Banners projects. The banners will be taken on a march to the UK parliament.

Herstory fans can also learn about how the early 20th-century police used photography to capture suffragette activities undercover, and even play suffragette-inspired games in an Edwardian living room, including one called ‘Pank-a-squith’, a board game said to be have conceived by the Suffragettes themselves.

There will also be a spoken poetry jam and a chance to discover stories about inspirational women and girls, as well as learning about significant participants in the struggle to gain women the vote, such as Millicent Fawcett and Sophia Duleep Singh.

British women received the right to vote on the 6th of February, 1918, after a long struggle by early women’s activists, known as the Suffragettes, who first planned their protests in the drawing rooms of Victorian Britain, before eventually taking to rallies, civil disobedience protests, and in some cases, even getting into trouble with the law.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Super London, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/SuperLNDN

Skint London Mag, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/SkintLondon

“Top Skint picks for the Weekend!” – Skint London (2 February 2018) http://www.skintlondon.com/top-skint-picks-for-the-weekend-30/

“Votes for Women weekend” – Museum of London https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/votes-women-weekend?id=154608

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Suffragettes, England, 1908.JPG” – The New York Times photo archive via Mr. Gustafson, Wikimedia Commons (21 October 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suffragettes,_England,_1908.JPG

I’M THE GREATEST: Boxer Muhammad Ali passes away aged 74

Phoenix, UNITED STATES
VIJAY SHAH via BBC

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who dominated the world’s rings in the 1960s and 1970s, has passed away today at the age of 74, BBC News has reported. The three-times world heavyweight champion, who was famous for the epic ‘Rumble in the Jungle‘, was admitted to hospital recently in the US after suffering a respiratory illness.

Formerly known as Cassius Clay, the sportsman changed religion to Islam and renamed himself Muhammad Ali, was plagued by Parkinson’s disease in his later years, but still made an imposing figure in the sports world, and inspired a generation of boxers such as Mike Tyson.

He passed away at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona USA. He was admitted there on Thursday after suffering breathing complications.

Billed as the ‘ultimate fighter’, Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky on the 17th January 1942. His father painted signs while his mother worked as a house cleaner. Of African-American heritage, Ali was born at a time when Kentucky, as with much of the southern United States at that time, was racially segregated, and black families such as his were forced to live in separate neighbourhoods, use separate shop entrances, and study at separate schools. His mother, Odessa Grady Clay, remember her son as a particularly active child, never sitting still, and was talking and learning well ahead of his years.

On his 12th birthday, a bike that was given to Ali as a gift was stolen. He visited a local police station to report the theft and told officer Joe Martin he wanted to beat up the thief. Martin, who was also a part-time boxing instructor, told Ali he should first learn how to fight before making threats. Ali took up Martin on his offer, and the officer became Ali’s first trainer and mentor. Soon Ali was picking up his first boxing titles at local rings.

Six years later, Ali appeared for the American Olympic team in Rome. His affable and energetic personality caught the attention of the world’s media and endeared him to his team members and fellow athletes. He won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division, and later turned professional, beginning his path to boxing glory.

Clay had immense confidence in his speed and agility, often leaving his guard down and leaning back to avoid punches. Clay’s showmanship was also evident in early bouts, as he dazzled media and fans with his bravado and predicted the round in which his fights would end. This was also the time when Ali began using his trademark witticisms and slogans, one of the most quoted being “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

In 1967, Ali famously refused to serve in the draft for the American army as the Vietnam War began to start up. Ali was dragged to court after refusing to sign up, citing his religious beliefs and his anger against the treatment of African-American people. He was stripped of his championship, indicted for draft evasion, fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. Three years later, his conviction was overturned. Away from the ring, Ali toured colleges and spoke out on a variety of social and political issues.

In October 1974, Ali faced hard-striking heavyweight George Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DPR Congo). He entered the ring as a 3-1 underdog. Avoiding Foreman’s colossal punches, Ali laid low around the ropes until his opponent tired out in the middle rounds. It was this strategy, which Ali affectionately called ‘rope-a-dope’, that was to pay off by round eight, Ali came alive with a serious of fast punches, utterly capitulating Foreman.

Ali’s victory over Foreman in central Africa firmly planted him in the limelight. He won a crew of celebrity fans, including Elvis Presley, Bertrand Russell and Nelson Mandela. In 1975, Ali destroyed Joe Frazier in a low key rematch in the Philippines, dubbed the ‘Thriller in Manila’. The match lasted an astonishing 14 rounds, fuelled by a wordy animosity between the two sports personalities.

After a few losses however, Ali called it quits in 1978, retiring permanently at the age of 40 with  a ring record of 56 wins and five losses. After retirement, Ali began to appear on the world stage in a political sphere. In 1980, then US President Jimmy Carter asked Muhammad Ali to visit the African continent to drum up support for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics, and during the First Gulf War in 1990, Ali made a personal visit to Iraq to help negotiate the release of American hostages captured after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Fifteen hostages were released, aided by Ali’s profile.

Sadly, in 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after he began to slur his speech and tremble in his hands. The degenerative conditions was believed by Ali’s doctors to have come from enduring repeated blows to the head from his numerous matches. In the ensuing years, Ali became a visible symbol of courage in the face of physical disability and helped raise millions of dollars for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center. Ali also began to devote himself to humanitarian causes and became a well-respected philanthropist. In 1999, the United Nations nominated Ali as a Goodwill Ambassador, and the biographical film Ali, starring Will Smith in the titular role, was released in the boxer’s honour in 2001.

Beyond the ring, he will be remembered for his belief in social justice and support for Black civil rights. Truly a cultural icon, Ali’s passion, skill, intelligence and wit gave him a global appeal unmatched by few, if any, other sporting figures and inspired millions.

Muhammad Ali’s funeral will be held in his hometown, according to his family.

He leaves behind wife Lonnie and two daughters, Tatyana and Hana.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies at 74” – BBC News – US and Canada (4 June 2016) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16011175
“Muhammad Ali: The ultimate fighter” – BBC – iWonder http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zy3hycw
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

EDITH MUNRO: Newham pays respects to WWI nurse

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via The Newham Mag, KAY ATWAL, IAIN BURNS, Newham Recorder and contributors.

 

Military veterans and members of the Jewish community paid their respects this month to a Newham, east London nurse who gave her life in active service for the country at a special memorial service this past week, council magazine The Newham Mag reports.

The nurse, Edith Hilda Munro, was born in a well-off household in Hackney, the daughter of Scottish engineer John Munro, and local Leah Nathan, and had three brothers and sisters. She first began her illustrious career in the Albert Dock Seaman’s Hospital of Custom House, in the south of the London borough, before finding work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment shortly after it was founded in 1909, a group which sent nurses to treat the injured in war zones. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Munro tended to soldiers injured in the battlefields of Europe.

First World War recruitment poster for the Vol...
First World War recruitment poster for the Voluntary Aid Detachment . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tragically, Munro contracted acute bronchopneumonia, a dangerous lung disease. She then developed heart failure and passed away at the tender age of 23, on the 12th December, 1916. She was then buried by family in East Ham. Sadly she was not regarded as a casualty of war and her grave, in East Ham’s Plashet Jewish Cemetery, laid undiscovered until a research team led by Harold Pollins and Martin Sugarman, with the involvement of AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women) discovered her details and began to piece together Edith’s story.

Her gravestone was eventually reconsecrated and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gave Edith her long awaited and deserved recognition as a war casualty.

The special stone-setting ceremony at the ancient Plashet cemetery was officiated over by Rabbi  Livingstone, senior Jewish chaplain to the Armed Forces. Also in attendance were Newham politicians, members of London’s Jewish community and representatives of St. John’s Ambulance. Also paying their respects were three distant descendants of Edith Munro.

Wreaths of poppies, a symbol of the World Wars, were laid at Munro’s grave while the military theme The Last Post was played. Local historian Stan Kaye, who also contributed to the research team’s efforts, said “It was a very emotional service,”

“I kept thinking what it must have been like 100 years ago when she was buried in this cemetery – cold, and in the middle of the war.”

Newham Council‘s chair and civic lead, Cllr. Joy Laguda, herself a former nurse, who attended the reconsecration ceremony and laid a wreath on behalf of the council, commented: “The stone is a lasting legacy to Edith’s valour”

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was founded in 1909 by the UK armed forces alongisde St. John’s Ambulance and the Red Cross. The VAD nurses, virtually all women, treated battlefield injuries and became renowned and respected for their courage under fire. Many were killed in action from bombing or contracting infections. Hundreds were killed in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, and relatives of VAD nurses who died in the call of duty have long struggled to get their contributions to the war effort properly recognised.

Edith Hilda Munro

Birth:  unknown
Death:  Dec. 12, 1916
West Ham
Greater London, England

She was a VAD nurse, died aged 23.Deaths Dec 1916 Munro Edith H 23 W.Ham 4a 173
 
 
Burial:
Plashet Jewish Cemetery
East Ham
London Borough of Newham
Greater London, England
Plot: plot M.24.35
SOURCES:
“Brave nurse is saluted” – The Newham Mag, Newham Council [Issue 337] (8 April 2016)
“Nurse buried in East Ham was ‘war casualty’ ” – Kay Atwal, Newham Recorder/London24 news network/Archant Community Media Ltd (14 April 2012) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/nurse_buried_in_east_ham_was_war_casualty_1_1348254
“Silvertown war nurse remembered century after dying aged 23” – Iain Burns, Newham Recorder/London24 news network/Archant Community Media Ltd (20 March 2016) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/silvertown_war_nurse_remembered_century_after_dying_aged_23_1_4458309
“Edith Hilda Munro” – Geoffrey Gillon & Stanley Kaye, Find A Grave (25 July 2013) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=114347036
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:VAD poster.jpg” – Voluntary Aid Detachment & Lumos3, Wikimedia Commons (13 June 2008) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:VAD_poster.jpg

A GLIMPSE OF NATIVE AMERICA: 1972 reservation photos by Terry Eiler

Two children ride along on a beige-coloured horse, the same colour as the sands on the pathway. Three more kids, excited and full of activity run after the steed towards what appears to be a cow farm. A photo captures their exuberance. This photo, and many others, forms part of an online gallery by web magazine Mashable. More famed for their millennial-angled technology journalism, Mashable instead travelled back in time to a simpler age, showcasing a series of photos taken on various Native American reservations and nearby towns in 1972.

In 1972, the United States federal government, which was looking into the conditions of the (currently) 1.4 million people living on lands set aside for the First Nations, employed the services of photographer Terry Eiler to visit the south-west of the country and give an outsiders view into the lives of some of the most disadvantaged of Americans, many of whom had their lands seized by white settlers during the ‘Wild West‘ days of the 19th century and were herded onto the reservations, often poor-quality and non-arable land allocated by the federal government and administered by the nations themselves under the auspices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Nowadays many Native American communities struggle with lack of employment and amenities, as well as social ills such as extreme poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Back in 1972, as the Native American rights movement was in its earliest days, Eiler visited three reservations belonging to the Navajo, Hopi and Havasupai reservations. The Navajo nation‘s reservation was the largest, about the same size as the US state of West Virginia. The photographer also visited the village of Supai, nestled in the Grand Canyon of Colorado, said to be the most remote human habitation in the southern ’48 states’ region and accessible only by an eight-mile hike through rocky terrain or via helicopter.

Eiler’s photo project provides an snapshot into a part of America few outside the First Nations have even seen, let alone understood. He shows a world that was becoming modernised and similar to mainstream America but at the same time, was still clinging tenaciously to their traditions, forged over millennia. His subjects are natural and act as themselves, a stark contrast to the wooden and forced appearances of Native Americans made to pose in the sepia photographs from the ‘pioneer days’.

His photos cover a wide range of subjects, from a sheep paddock in the desert sands of the Navajo reservation in Arizona, a retinue of cute lambs staring back at the camera, their white wool contrasting strongly with the ochre ground underneath their hooves, to a Navajo woman in a bright red blouse standing for a quick snap near the Arizonan town of Shiprock.

Others show Native American families and men out and about, gardening, horse riding and being at home. While clearly getting on with life, it is obvious that the living conditions were at times very different from most American communities, but also shows the industriousness of the Navajo and other peoples, whether cramming into a truck to get to work, training as teachers, or selling bead necklaces to tourists visiting the reservations. Local scenery, especially the Havasu Falls of Arizona, also makes a frequent appearance in Eiler’s collection.

The Eiler collection is now part of the U.S. National Archives. You can view all the pictures by clicking HERE.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Twistools, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/twistools_en
“1972 Native American reservations” – Alex Q. Arbuckle, Mashable – Retronaut (27 February 2016) http://mashable.com/2016/02/27/native-american-reservations/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29#sJ06qJkI8kqp

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Grenada underwater slavery memorial

An underwater memorial to the victims of the Atlantic slave trade, situated off the coast of the Caribbean island of Grenada. It pays respects to the thousands of people abducted from Africa to be enslaved in the Americas who were thrown overboard to perish in the Atlantic Ocean after becoming sick or rebelling. These sombre heads with their eyes closed in peace form part of the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, the world’s first sea-based sculpture gallery and a poignant reminder of when it was considered acceptable to trade in our fellow humans.

Made available via Sunshine Su.

SOURCES:
A Higher Knowledge, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/AHigherKnowledge
Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park http://grenadaunderwatersculpture.com/
IMAGE CREDITS:
A Higher Knowledge, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/AHigherKnowledge

NEWHAM PAST AND PRESENT: Four residents wins prizes in borough’s history quiz

Four lucky residents from the east London borough of Newham can now call themselves true amateur local historians after winning prizes in a council-sponsored history competition designed to test local historical knowledge.

The locals were among several winners of the Newham Past and Present competition, which aimed to increase awareness of the historical places and stories of the borough, which was once part of Essex county and was created in 1965 after a programme of extensive local government reorganisation. The competition took place at the Mayor‘s Newham Show weekend last month (July 2015), reports the council publication The Newham Mag this past weekend. In the competition, residents were asked to identify locations from around Newham’s eight Community Neighbourhood Areas by looking at an archive of photographs taken of them over the past fifty years since Newham came into existence.

The winners who achieved the highest scores in the history competition were Syed Ilyas Mizan, Miriam Jelinkova, Jim McLucas and Adele Flore. They all were gifted £50 worth of shopping vouchers to be spent at the borough’s showpiece Westfield mall in Stratford City. The prizes were presented by Cllr. Ken Clark, who is the cabinet member for building communities and public affairs, regeneration and planning. The award ceremony took place at East Ham Library in Barking Road, East Ham.

Speaking at the event to honour the ‘history buffs’, Clark said “Newham has had so much to celebrate over the past 50 years and residents who entered the heritage competition showed how they really know our borough, the people, and the places in it”.

Newham is renowned for its ethnically diverse and multicultural communities, ancient churches and pubs and Victorian architecture and has a large number of monuments and war memorials, including the Rhubarb and ArcelorMittal Orbit, the Samuel Gurney Memorial, the borough’s Town Hall and Stratford’s Olympic Stadium, soon to be the home of local football team West Ham.

SOURCES:
“Success for history buffs” – The Newham Mag [Issue 323], Newham Council (28 August 2015) 
IMAGE CREDITS:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

MY JOURNEY THROUGH A LENS: New photography book by Alex Smithson

Alex Smithson, the blogger behind news, photography and music blog Mother Nature has now celebrated nearly a month since the successful launch of his latest published photography project, a book entitled “My Journey Through A Lens”. It is the third such book created by the Croydon College photography student, a firm supporter of the Half-Eaten Mind, and follows the success of his earlier works “My Journey Through Photography” and “A Year in Photography”.

Alex’s third book of his amazing nature and scenery photography had been many months in the making, combining both pictures and articles published on the Mother Nature site, as well as external projects Alex worked on in his free time and also as part of his photography and art course at Croydon College, a further education institute located just south of the UK capital, London.

By March 2015, Alex was already putting the final touches to My Journey Through A Lens, a book chronicling his career as a budding photographer and graphic designer. Like any author, Alex spent much time ironing out spelling and grammar mistakes as he sought to make his third book just ripe for the picking and reading, as well as tackling the inevitable umm and aahs of getting a suitable set of photographs prepared. He also spent considerable time designing the front and back covers of My Journey. He at first went for a simple and minimalistic, yet visually powerful format in design, with his favourite nature photo taking pride of place. Alex prepared two such designs, one featuring plants silhouetted in a sunset sky and the other depicting exploding fireworks taken over the New Year period of 2014-2015. Alex however decided to fire up his graphic design skills for the final choice of cover concept, dispensing with the photography altogether. Alex’s final design is a proud homage to his proficiency with the open source graphical software GIMP. Reflecting a recent re-haul of Mother Nature, Alex chose to adopt the blog’s new colour scheme for the final front and back covers, opting for bold squares of blue and bright orange bordering a white square with the book’s title in bold black capitals. The new cubed logo of Mother Nature, with its slogan ‘Life at the touch of a button’ neatly tucked into one side, also makes an appearance.

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By March 2015, Alex had crossed the 400-page barrier and was excited at getting the book up-and-running, offering it for free download via cloud service Dropbox. Not only would My Journey showcase Alex’s photography, but also case studies he wrote on key personalities in British history, such as the once prime minister Winston Churchill and notoriously oft married monarch Henry VIII, and musical tributes to Madonna, a favourite singer of Alex and to Ben Haenow, a fellow Croydon resident, who had won the final of UK musical talent show The X Factor in 2014.

By the beginning of this month (July 2015) and after nine months of groundwork and editing, My Journey was ready to hit the virtual bookshelves. In a blog article on Mother Nature, Alex narrates how he was ‘extremely pleased’ to be finally launching the book on July the 4th, American Independence Day. He had originally planned to launch his third book in May, but demands from college studies and exam revision for his GCSE finals put paid to that, forcing Alex to reschedule. By then, the young blogger had now included six historical case studies for educational purposes, detailing historical icons from the 1500s onwards, as well as additional information of Alex’s learning experiences as a fresh-faced A-Level student on his career journey to becoming a professional shutterbug.

On the 4th July, as our cousins across the Pond exploded fireworks, waved the red, white and blue, and generally made merry, My Journey Through A Lens was officially launched at 6:00 pm London time and made available completely free of charge on Alex’s website along with his previous editions. To celebrate the special occasion, Alex published an elated blogpost sharing the good news with subscribers and visitors. In this book, Alex celebrates historical icons such as Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, Guy Fawkes, Mary Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassinated US President. Alex also paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, former South African president, humanitarian icon and victor against government-sponsored racism and hatred, who tragically passed away from illness last year. Alex also penned tributes to Croydon lad Ben Haenow, along with musical legend Madonna, the Italian-American ‘Queen of Pop’ whose top slot career in the charts has been going strong since the 1980s and had recently released songs and albums, including ‘Rebel Heart’, ‘Living for Love’, ‘Ghosttown’ and ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’.

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Alex certainly has not run out of steam with his sideline hobby of creating and marketing his work as a ‘indie author’ and aspiring professional photographer. On the day of his third book’s release, Alex also hinted that he will be working on a fourth title, although he has not yet revealed any further details at this early stage. While his third instalment will be made available as an e-book, Alex also teamed up with book printers DoxDirect to release a limited run of physical copies of My Journey, which he tweeted.

Alex dedicated his third book to some very special people in his life who have supported and influenced him along the way. The dedications, which appear on the back cover, include a tribute to Ajay Mody. Living in Mumbai, Mody was a passionate member of the WordPress community under the nickname ‘Ajaytao’. Like Alex, he also photographed the natural and bustling side of his hometown, India’s cultural and commercial capital, and was a keen blogger. He sadly passed away on the 10th August 2014, after a cardiac arrest and declining health. Tributes were also paid to actor and presenter Lynda Bellingham, the UK’s much beloved ‘OXO Mum’ who died in October of that year from colon cancer and to cricketer Philip Hughes who passed away after being struck by a ball during play on the 27th November 2014.

Alex also pens a dedication to this blog’s writer, a close friend and supporter, who in Alex’s own words, has “guided me along the way since I began my blogging journey”.

If you would like to obtain a copy of My Journey Through A Lens, or any of Alex Smithson’s previous titles, please visit https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/  and scroll down to the ‘Free Books’ section on the blog’s sidebar on your screen’s right, directly underneath the social media and contact buttons. You will see the title pages of the books and clicking on them will take you direct to the download site.

SOURCES:
“My Journey Through a Lens | Out Soon!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (29 March 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-soon/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Independence Day!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (3 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-independence-day/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Now!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (4 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-now/
IMAGE CREDITS:
Alex Smithson.

 

 

IBROX DISASTER: Scottish football team remembers the fallen 40 years on – January 2011

New Year’s Day may have been a time of happiness for most, but for the Scottish football club Rangers FC, their fans and for many in Scotland, New Year’s Day 2011 was a time for remembrance for 66 fans who perished in a stampede at the club’s ground in Glasgow forty years ago at the time of the memorial service, which took place in January. The Ibrox disaster of 1971 also saw 200 people injured in the darkest day of the team’s history.

Thousands of people gathered at the Rangers FC home ground in Glasgow in January 2011 to remember one of the darkest chapters in Glaswegian and Scottish football history, reported The Scotsman newspaper today in a past New Year’s events commemoration. Four years ago, the special service was attended by relatives, families and friends of those who died. Many survivors of the Ibrox disaster, despite the onset of old age, also attended to pay their respects to their fallen friends. At the time of the disaster, a match between Rangers and their rivals Celtic was taking place and players from both teams also honoured those who died at the service.

They made a vow to always remember those who perished in the disaster, in which fans attempting to leave the stadium were crushed to death as they tried to leave through overcrowded gates after the conclusion of the game. The incident occurred on the Stairway 13 part of the Old Firm’s Ibrox Stadium, then called Ibrox Park. At that time, 80,000 fans were on the stalls for the Rangers vs. Celtic clash and safety concerns had been raised about the standard of Ibrox’s passageways after two fans died in an earlier stampede. Among the dead in the 1971 disaster included several children, including five school friends from the town of Markinch in Fife. Rangers FC admitted responsibility for the disaster and were later sued by several families of victims.

Statue of John Greig at Ibrox Stadium, memoria...
Statue of John Greig at Ibrox Stadium, memorial to the Ibrox Disaster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tragedy was described by Martin Bain, Rangers’ chief executive, as a “tragedy beyond belief“, according to The Scotsman.

The service was attended by around 5,000 people, including past and present Rangers players, including John Greig, the team captain at the time of the disaster, whose statue forms part of a memorial to the victims of both the 1971 tragedy and a similar incident that occurred at the turn of last century. The Celtic side were represented by manager Neil Lennon, chairman John Reid and chief executive Peter Lawwell.

Victims’ relatives and the footballers placed bouquets of blue and white flowers, the team colours of Rangers at the stand as the current manager Walter Smith, a survivor of the tragedy, and Greig solemnly read out the names of the fans who did not return home that fateful day. As the act of commemoration, several relatives were reported to have turned and saluted to the stand where their loved ones watched the game.

The Celtic chairman then also laid a wreath in his team’s colours of green and white before the crowd, who had gathered at the Govan East Corner area of the stadium, fell silent for two minutes as an act of remembrance. Following this, the Rangers chief executive addressed the mourners, describing the events of January 1971 as an “unimaginable horror“.

He said “January 2, 1971, is a date that will be forever etched deeply into the soul of the Rangers family. Each year we remember with the heaviest of hearts and wish for all the world that the fate of those on Stairway 13 had been so different.

Forty years may now have passed, but as Willie Waddell said at the time, the scar is deep. It still is, and always will be.”

Martin Bain then went on to recollect to the gathered how Rangers and Celtic put aside their sporting rivalry to rally together and support each other, both fans and officials.

Rivalries do run deep – sometimes too deep – but at the core of it all is a common bond, and that is a love of football,” he explained. “A game of football should and does bring joy, happiness, frustration and disappointment in different measure, but it should never bring tragedy and disaster.

To the relatives and friends of those lost, and those who survived Stairway 13, his message was a simple one of remembrance.

We cannot fully comprehend your grief, your anguish, your torment, or your suffering, but we can come together today to offer you our comfort,” he vowed. “There is a heartfelt desire among all of us to remember and never forget.

The service was presided over by local Christian clergy, in particular the Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie, who himself was a survivor who was watching the match from the Copland Road terracing at the time the crush occurred. Rev. MacQuarrie described the tragic events as a “personal tragedy” for the families left behind.

After the Reverend’s address, a lifelong Rangers fan, Ian Loch, another survivor, read an extract from a speech famous among the club’s fans. Entitled ‘To Be a Ranger‘, it was originally delivered by past manager, Bill Struth.

No matter the days of anxiety that come our way, we shall emerge stronger because of the trials to be overcome,” he told the crowd. “That has been the philosophy of the Rangers since the days of the gallant pioneers.”

There was also a musical element to the memorial service as the Glasgow Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Salvation Army and Govan Citadel band led the crowd in the hymns The Lord is My Shepherd, Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah and Follow On. A large banner was seen suspended from the Bill Struth Stand, which stated: ‘In our hearts forever’. Several Scottish figureheads of government and religion also paid their respects along with fans, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bob Winter, Nicola Sturgeon, then the country’s Deputy First Minister, the Right Rev John Christie, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the Most Rev Mario Conti, Glasgow’s archbishop.

SOURCES:
“HEM News Agency” – Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-news-agency
Scotsman, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TheScotsman
“Ibrox disaster: ‘A date that will be forever etched in Rangers’ soul’ ” – The Scotsman (3 January 2011, republished 2 January 2015) http://www.scotsman.com/news/ibrox-disaster-a-date-that-will-be-forever-etched-in-rangers-soul-1-1524078
“1971 Ibrox disaster” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_Ibrox_disaster
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:John Greig Statue.JPG” – Archibald99, Wikimedia Commons (18 February 2007) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Greig_Statue.JPG

BERLIN WALL: 8,000 balloons mark 25th anniversary of wall’s collapse, German reunification

Twenty-five years ago, the heavily fortified Berlin Wall that divided east and west Berlin and the capitalist world from the communist one, was breached and the two Germanys were reunited. Now a quarter of a century later, an art project named “Lichtgrenze” – the border of light – will mark this historical milestone with eight thousand glowing balloons across an eight mile (fifteen kilometre) stretch of the once heavily guarded and fortified border that separated Berlin for thirty years. The white glowing orbs will remain in place until this Sunday, when they will be set free from their tethers and allowed to rise into the sky. The balloons’ release will mark the pivotal moment on the 9th of November, 1989, when a garbled speech at a news conference by a senior east Berlin communist official – the Politburo spokesman Günter Schabowski -, began the chain of events that pulled down one of the most potent and controversial symbols of the Cold War. The opening wide of the East German border heralded the removal of one-party governments across eastern Europe. Poland soon elected its first non-communist prime minister and Hungary’s new government tore down its own border fences. Once the announcement was given, hundreds of east Berliners surged across the newly liberated border. Guards, who once had instructions to shoot on sight any escapees, were said to have been powerless to stop the crowds and let them through without any obstacle. One of the émigrés was current German chancellor Angela Merkel, who at that time was employed as a physicist.

Lichtgrenze balloons on mounts running the length of an autobahn alongside a section of the Berlin Wall. (c) imgur

Even today when I walk through the Brandenburg Gate, there’s a residual feeling that this wasn’t possible for many years of my life, and that I had to wait 35 years to have this feeling of freedom,” Merkel said last week, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That changed my life.

West and East Germany were formally reunified for the first time since the end of the Second World War on the 3rd October 1990, just under a year after the breaching of the Wall.

The route of the glowing balloons of the Lichtgrenze will snake past well known landmarks across the old divide, including Checkpoint Charlie (the border crossing between the wartime Soviet and British-American zones), the Brandenburg Gate (one of Berlin’s most recognised landmarks) and the German parliamentary building, the Reichstag. Many of the lit balloons, which resemble old-fashioned street lighting, will be affixed to the top of the wall’s remnants as well as local bridges adjoining the old border. The 25th anniversary will see celebrations across Germany as it marks not only the collapse of communism but also the beginning of its rise to becoming a European powerhouse and a prominent leader within the EU.

An aerial photo of the Lichtgrenze installation across the former border that split Berlin (c) imgur
A line of glowing white balloons lined up outside the famous Berliner landmark, the Brandenburg gate (c) imgur

 

The balloons will be released to the soothing sounds of the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Ode to Joy – a symbol of peace after the reunion of Europe 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The light installation was organised and designed by brothers Marc and Christopher Bauder. In an interview with the British Daily Mail newspaper, Marc said: “We wanted to counter this ominous, heavy structure with something light.

‘Remembrance belongs to the people.

Much of the Berlin Wall still stands, albeit in broken portions, as a reminder of how far the city has come since its divided days. The wall was originally built as a defensive measure but was also intended to prevent east Berliners from fleeing to the West. Turrets with armed guards and attack dogs watched over the ‘no man’s land’ that split the city, gunning down anyone that dared to escape. A total of 138 people were killed along the Berlin wall from 1961 until 1989 as they tried to flee, some just months before peaceful protests opened the border. German reunification in 1989 saw jubilant crowds tear down parts of the war and stream through openings and border crossings. Much of the remaining structure is now adorned with graffiti celebrating both the city’s vibrant arts scene and hopes for peace.

The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, inaugurated the Lichtgrenze light installation and its 8,000 ‘Luftballons’ on the evening of 7th November 2014 (yesterday) in a solemn address to the public near the German parliament, the Reichstag. Hundreds of the city’s residents clustered together in the sharp German cold to watch a film on the history of the Wall. For many, it was an emotional, yet stoic, time of remembrance of a city once-divided by wartime machinations and political alliances.

BERLIN LICHTGRENZE

Mauerfall 2014 – „Lichtgrenze“ zum 25.Jubiläum in Berlin

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
newslocker_uknews, Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/newslock_uknews
“Wall of light: 8,000 glowing balloons recreate the route of the Berlin Wall, 25 years after it fell” – Ollie Gillman, Mail Online – News/Associated Newspapers Ltd (8 November 2014) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826196/Germany-marks-25-years-fall-Berlin-Wall-illuminating-former-border-East-West-8-000-glowing-balloons.html
“Germany marks 25 years since Berlin Wall’s fall” – Geir Moulson, Associated Press/San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC/MLIM (8 November 2014) http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/nov/08/germany-marks-25-years-since-berlin-walls-fall/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Lichtgrenze. 8,000 illuminated balloons to recreate the Berlin Wall.” – DaHitcha, Reddit Pics/reddit inc.(7 November 2014) http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/2lkwec/lichtgrenze_8000_illuminated_balloons_to_recreate/
“Lichtgrenze” – Imgur/Imgur, Inc. http://imgur.com/a/TEBCG