So I am standing in Piazza San Marco – yeah that’s the one: Venice, Italy. Maybe you were there too? Maybe on the same day?

I am part of a group, we’re on a meeting, come tour, come educational partnership (rearrange those activities depending on the time of day and you’ll be close to the truth).

And, Angel, the man from Bulgaria, asks me to take his photo. he wants to stand, with some of the pigeons on his arm and hand and have his photo taken. Digital camera. I take his, he takes mine. OK, kind of a cliched tourist thing to do I know … but hey, the Venetians for some reason I still haven’t figured out had put hangings in the corner of the piazza with the Houses of Parliament Clock Tower (now to be known as the Elizabeth Tower) in full technicolour view. yeah the one in London.

“Angel…” I told him as we walked on, the place a circus of nationalities, tour parties, cruise ship refugees (“Which place is this honey? I’m sure that the clock in London hnh?”) waiters, performers setting up for the evening cabaret, locals who drift in on the marvellously punctual local train services just to sit by the canal, first-time lovers, souvenir vendors, school parties, honeymooners, backpackers and – who knows/ – visitors from another world?

“Angel, by eight o’clock this evening our photos will be all over the world!”

Because I had suddenly realised, There were others trapped in the images I took of him/he took of me and we would also be appearing in the background of so many other snaps – heading for … Japan, California, London, Cape Town, the infinite otherspace we call the internet.

I am writing this blog to share some of the excitement I feel about this world, the ups and downs and in betweens, the faces, the spaces and the thoughts …

… and to apologise to anyone who has me in the background of any photos; sorry I always look like this.

I would appreciate any comments or feedback on my work. It’s one of the reasons I’m here.

I hope you enjoy what is here and feel able to come back and visit now and then.

Maybe one day we will stand next to each other (the Great Wall of China,Everest base Camp, the Alamo, Bescot Stadium) each without knowing we shared something on Blogworld, then go our separate ways.

Here’s to those do not recognise in our photographs, thanks for being there.

“All Things Are Connected …”

“All things on earth are connected, of course, but those that are similar are connected more closely.”

After collection from the Austrian airport I am sitting waiting for lasagne (it will be a big Austrian-hospitality sized portion I have no doubt) in the house of friends I have not seen for some time. Nor to be fair, until I found out the lady was, I believe, a surprise to most people was pregnant again have we been in any kind of contact (internet or ‘phone) at all. But here we sit, and the two sons impress me with their English and their confidence in conversation and ability to engage. There is some brief – perhaps inevitable competition between them. Who can most quickly and correctly name European capitals?

Romania comes up and I am able to divert the competition for I flew to Bucharest in October and stayed in Brasov … and the talk turns to Dracula. Life is filled with coincidences perhaps; for I was so impressed by my colleagues in Romania and their openness and friendly nature and the excellent tours and discussions that I had with people there that I bought our daughter a book, Vlad as part of a Christmas present – and that is the very book I chose to bring to read (at least) on flights to and from Linz. It purports to tell the “real story” of Vlad Dracul and is written by C.C. Humphreys: whether it does or not I cannot judge, but it is well-written, reflecting a line said to the fictional “scholar” soldier, Harris by Richard Sharpe in the Cornwell series “Write a book with plenty of shooting and battles and you can’t go wrong.”

There is strategy; I imagine based on comprehensive research, character building and what reads like excellent background: all in all very convincing as a narrative… and I am only half way through it (a plane journey). But this lad knows the background, the time as hostage in Turkey, the castles in Romania, the name of the territory Wallachia (well it’s German equivalent anyway) and about the involvement of Crusades and Islam. He proudly tells me that he knows it “from TV, from books, from school … you know…” and I am truly stunned.

I doubt if many English kids of his age would know beyond the vampire legends created by Bram Stoker (who initially had the ideas for the book written and had his vampire lord coming from Syria – until he visited Romania/Transylvania with Sir Henry Irving the actor – and changed the location and film history). In fact in the age of popularity of the Twilight sagas maybe English kids will not even know of this Gothic invention Dracula. That’s a question worth asking because it certainly isn’t an easy book to read!

But what history do Austrian students learn? I certainly like the idea of broad European history; countries and states change on today’s planet faster than in a long time, particularly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was usually in there somewhere as a big influence.

And what lessons for the English curriculum? English society?

And will we learn the answers any time soon?

And a question I must re-visit: I was lucky enough to visit Bran Castle* while staying in Brasov, but what do I now need to know about Poenari?


*The castle at Bran is excellent, short, steep climb from fine gardens (there was snow on red, fallen-autumn leaves when I was there) refusing to bow too far to Hollywood and features interesting displays about Romanian monarchs and customs, leaving a small room for Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee at the top somewhere – but, hey life is life and the market and pub down below sell the vampire industry to visiting tourists, most of whom would not be there if not for the blood sucking image.