Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Daffodils" (1804)


I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;Beside the lake, beneath the trees,Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:Ten thousand saw I at a glance,Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thoughtWhat wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;And then my heart with pleasure fills,And dances with the daffodils.
By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Edith Piaf - Non Je Ne Regrette Rien Lyrics

Non, Rien De Rien, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Ni Le Bien Qu`on M`a Fait, Ni Le Mal
Tout Ca M`est Bien Egal
Non, Rien De Rien, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
C`est Paye, Balaye, Oublie, Je Me Fous Du Passe


Avec Mes Souvenirs J`ai Allume Le Feu
Mes Shagrins, Mes Plaisirs,
Je N`ai Plus Besoin D`eux
Balaye Les Amours Avec Leurs Tremolos
Balaye Pour Toujours
Je Reparas A Zero


Non, Rien De Rien, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Ni Le Bien Qu`on M`a Fait, Ni Le Mal
Tout Ca M`est Bien Egal
Non, Rien De Rien, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Car Ma Vie, Car Me Joies
Aujourd`hui Ca Commence Avec Toi
GOANET READER
Memories of another Panjim...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I could write about Panjim forever, with no objectivity or clarity, but a chuckle and a tear. I won't mention that spectacular cyclone that lifted our neighbours' roof off and sent it clattering into the angry river flowing under the Patto bridge.

Memories of another Panjim...

By Isabel de Santa Rita Vas


She's quaint, they explain. How picturesque, they tell you. And you blink and take another good look. You've never thought of her in such adjectives. To you, she's full of nouns and verbs, she's your home town, where you've always done things, and who's mapped your life in subtle or more determined ways. To me, Nova Goa, Cidade de Goa, Panjim or Panaji are not sign-boards of plush hotels or sheeth-koddi eating-houses. They are the ever changing make-up your cosy mum wears when she goes to town.

I could write about Panjim forever, with no objectivity or clarity, but a chuckle and a tear. I could take vantage points from roof-tops I've climbed, to river parapets I’ve run on, could describe old schools and frisky school friends so exciting that I invariably prayed I'd fail the year, and please-God-let-me-remain-in-this-same-class-next-year. But I won't. I won't mention that spectacular cyclone that lifted our neighbours' roof off and sent it clattering into the angry river flowing under the Patto bridge. Some memories one does well not to share.

But lest I be accused of being excessively possessive, I shall establish my generosity and equanimity by letting you flick through some of these dog-eared memories. Maybe I shall tell you about sounds, about buying and selling, about moving around, about seasonal events, and if you have a stomach for more such jumble-sale stuff, then I'll show you some great faces from this album, all of a half-century old.

Panjim, to me, has been a melodious city.

The alvorada or the cheerful notes of a brass band at dawn on festive occasions -- this is one of the most gorgeous sounds of my childhood, almost as heart-warming as the bulbuls in the glowing sunrise one is too lazy to watch on other days.

The alvorada would be played by the Panjim Police Band wending its way round town on mornings of celebration and if there's an antonym to alarm-clock, here you heard it: a harmony-clock for the slumbering Panjimite. The same band would often play of an evening in the various garden band-stands, and all of us would crowd around, running in the periphery of our parents, waving out to small friends, craning our necks for a glimpse of the sparkling trombone.

A different sound, but oh-so-homey, is the song of the woman carrying a huge basket of salt on her head, or often following a gaddo full of salt, driven by her husband: "Mitt-zaiem-gue-e-e-e…"

To us sweaty kids swinging a school-satchel at noon (hey, nothing like the heavy-weight back-breaking monsters our kiddies today lug around ) the staccato call of the 'ice-fruit-walla', "aiiice-croatttt!" was irresistible, until we spied the sweaty vendor of the yellow and red lollies, lustily slurping them and smuggling them back into the ice-box.

In later years, a more natty young man had acquired himself a fancy hand-cart and went around dispensing mutton patties that he hawked in the most Mediterranean accents, “Pasteis de cabrito….”

The campa who did the rounds, bell and walking-stick in hand, announcing to the neighbourhood the death and funeral of a townsman or woman, he gave charm to the fact of death. The crows at even-tide, specially around the Campal river banks are the signature tune of holiday time, for those were the days when everybody went to Miramar of an evening to meet friends, listen to music, savour some juicy oysters, and scramble into the lacy edge of the waves. The town pealed church bells, carreira horns, and the hopeful sorticar's (lottery vendor) call "sort-abeitt...".

Looking back, the business of buying and selling was not a crass soul-less affair, but a ritual full of textures, smells, sound effects and light and dark, and people, one-to-one sort of folks that a small town accommodates.

Fish came to the house, or the fisher-ladies did -- who ever went to the market, I never knew there existed a Panjim market until I was a full-grown adult. The women-vendors and the women-buyers from the house had a daily ritual by the back steps, exchanging greetings and news, examining the visvonn or the bangddo with experienced hands, haggling for formality’s sake over the price.

As we helped hoist the heavy drippy basket to the lady's sturdy head, food and fellowship had been shared. If there were nice calvan (clams) this morning, some would be sent to the lady next door, who, granny said, could do with them.

To get our load of firewood, we walked downstairs to the river-front and purchased it from the boat that docked right below our verandah next to the Patto bridge; or from the bullock-cart that drove past; and for lighter fuel we carried a gunny sack to the carpenter next door for the huge loads of sawdust that he sold us for a few coins -- the odour of just-sawn wood, the flying curls of shavings and the “bai-go” greeting of the carpenter is all fuel for joy.

For paper and ink bottles we walked down the street a few meters to the Bholo shop, where Mr. Bhale somehow managed to locate for you whatever you needed from his cascading mountain of stationery. The chaos in the little one-door shop had to be seen to be believed, and we kids at home were accused by our mother of being disorganized and a lost cause, in short a complete 'bholo'.

For dress materials, we visited the Armazens Vaglo, where the older Mr. Vaglos, good friends of our grandfather, measured out yards of flowered prints for our Easter dress and saved a silk fan or a box of sweets and little posies of paper flowers for us at agarbatti-Diwali time. For 'bojes' we went to Café Real and for an ice-cream the place was Esquimo.

The celebrations seem to have been a-plenty: Christmas was mid-night Mass and visiting neighbours and relatives and sharing news of family and good wishes. Diwali was doing the rounds of the shops to say hello and good luck. Chathurti was a visit to all the beautifully decorated shrines of Ganapati within the houses of neighbours.

Lent was full of long winding candle-lit processions and opa-garbed men shouldering life-size dramatic statues, wending through the streets of the town. December was a shower of fireworks by the Church square and kaddio-boddio and white-sugar-cashewnut-sweets from Divarkar’s stall at the fair. Carnival was small brothers armed with cocotes, and the commencement of the school year in June was the glorious smell of new rain and freshly baked books and wagging fingers of parents, and splashy puddles to run through on the way back home.

Reminiscing about how we traveled, in, around and out of town, I am transported to another world, one that moved more leisurely, perhaps more thoughtfully.

My father's Morris Minor was so much a part of our childhood that it held no excitement for me -- unlike the previous -- Citroen? --- that needed an energetic manivela or henddel to chug it into motion.

The carro de cavalo was poetry pure and simple, since our grandparents never came back home from their evening drive in the carro pulled by a lovely pair of horses, without bringing something exciting to be tucked into our childish hands: a box of crayons, some peppermint.

But mostly we walked, to Church, to school, to the dentist. We got to know the town, and it grew close to us -- footpath, gully, hill, river, and sea-front. My dream was to travel by carreira -- those squat little buses that have quite vanished from our landscape -- which I finally did when I started commuting to College at Miramar, for the princely fare of four annas.

The bullock-cart trotted downtown too, laden with Mangalore tiles, or salt and what else? Single-bullock carts for passengers were more common after we had crossed the ferry to visit relatives in Divar. The rivers were busy thoroughfares from dawn to dusk.

Tonas (or larger boats) transported merchandise to town, canoas (or little canoes) carried a couple of people in them.

We set out in a lancha (launch) well-stocked with a lunch packet to visit our own village of Aldona; it was the ferry-boat that took us to Betim; the patmarim sailed in the distance and was excitedly pointed out to us, and the barge pregnant with mine ore sailed coldly by. The Bombay Steamer was a thrill beyond compare, and if you were coming home from Bombay for your holidays, your heart swam ahead of the boat, dreaming of the glint of tears in your parents’ eyes, of cashews and mangoes and the rang-te-teng band at the Chapel feast in Aldona.

The city was clean, though I have no idea who swept the streets. I remember no water shortage, ever -- we had plenty of wells that were later deliberately choked when the building fever began -- and no power cut, ever (the charm of candle light and petromax was reserved for the villages).

I never saw the town flooded even in the heaviest downpour. The houses had what an architect friend calls a good connection with the sky and a generous amount of protection and shade from its verandahs for the passerby. In the late 50s and 60s it had a fair quantum of road traffic but no real din on the streets.

Panjim was full of people -- or so I thought as a ten year old. My parents knew so many people. I always wondered how I would get to know all these nice folks on the streets who waved hello and pecked us on both cheeks. I decided that probably my parents would some day hold a large meeting and introduce me to all the people they knew. Alas, they never got round to it... but I still receive my quota of hellos, thank God.

Faces from my childhood are wrinkled with love and grace. Professor Kenkro who taught us drawing at the Liceu; Venkatesh, the old man with and unbelievable little queue on his tonsured head, who always came from Aldona with coconuts by boat; the six-footer of a family tailor whose name was Alfaiate Comprido (the long tailor), who remembers my brothers' names even today; the bhangui lady whose tough lot was to carry the night-soil in a can to the river-front; Laurente, our cook, who composed tiatr scripts in the attic. Friends, family, domestic help and a small town that was safe and home.

Decades later, Panaji is more democratic today. More cosmopolitan: many languages, many ideas. The handshakes cut across many old barriers. But I must confess the old town of the old days had a charm all her own.

It strikes me that it was a kind town that harboured my childhood and youth, probably a place of some privilege for me, a middle-class child.

Was I insensitive to those who must've been on the margins? A vague twinge gnaws at me. But the town did not isolate me, or so I hope. I am grateful for the safety, the human face of a small town, the roads, windows, doorways, river-ways and sea-ways she graciously provided to a child busy growing, asking, questing and -- quietly -- painting the town red. (ENDS)


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ISABEL DE SANTA RITA VAS teaches English at the Dhempe College of Arts and Science, Miramar. She's a member of the Mustard Seed Art Company, member of the NGO Positive People for HIV/AIDS awareness, care and advocacy, and a member of the Research Institute for Women, Goa.

This essay was first published in PARMAL, the annual journal of the Goa Heritage Action Group, under the title 'Painting The Town Red', from where it is being reprinted with permission. PARMAL is an easily-recommedable buy, priced at Rs 100. and can be purchased from the GHAG at ghaggoa at rediffmail.com or www.goaheritage.or See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goaheritage

Saturday, March 25, 2006

255-year-old tortoise dies in Kolkata zoo

By Indo Asian News Service



Kolkata, March 23 (IANS) Adwaita, the nearly 255-year-old
giant tortoise that roamed the Alipore Zoo here, has died.

The Aldabra-Seychelles tortoise had not been well for the
past few days. It was found dead by zookeepers Wednesday when
they went to his enclosure with medicine.

'He had developed a wound on his chest. He was not keeping
well. We were keeping a close watch on him,' West Bengal
Forest Minister Jogesh Burman said, mourning the death of
Adwaita, meaning the peerless one or the only one.

In deference to his more than two-and-half-century's
existence, this grand old resident of Kolkata was named
Adwaita by Burman last year and given more green space to
amble along.

The 250-kg male was a vegetarian. He was brought to the city
255 years ago by the British colonialists.

Adwaita was brought to the zoo 130 years ago after spending
years in the garden of Robert Clive (1725-1774), the victor
of the Battle of Plassey in 1757 who consolidated the British
empire in India.

When the zoo came up 130 years ago, the tortoise was shifted
to the premises.

Since then, the dark grey land tortoise has lived in a small,
rocky enclosure.

Alipore Zoo director Subir Chowdhury said there were
documents to prove the tortoise is about 255 years old.

'A tortoise of this species can live up to 320 years
according to available records. He may even be over 300
years,' Burman said.

If only the tortoise could speak, what a tale he would have
to tell!



There was an old tortoise that got sent off
Whose life had an East India kick-off
Tho’ never that nifty,
He made 200 and fifty
Which is more than Strauss and that Flintoff!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Goan" music

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

From modems to alarms: the world of bird mimics
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 22 March 2006
If your computer modem sounds a little odd - try checking the tree outside.

According to a new CD released by the British Library today, what sounds like the search for a connection may, in fact, be a blackbird in full voice.

The CD, Bird Mimicry, is compiled from recordings held by the British Library Sound Archive which stores the world's largest collection of the sounds of nature.

Birds can mimic almost any sound, whether it comes from an animal within earshot or the noises of inanimate objects such as a squeaky farm fence, a mobile phone or a digital alarm clock.

Starlings have been known to learn the high-pitched, duo-toned screech of a car alarm. The sound archive's CD includes Sparkie Williams, a champion talking budgerigar, and the hand-reared bullfinches who were taught to whistle German folk tunes. "As the birds were taught the same tunes by different trainers, each bird sings a slightly different version - much like if two humans were whistling the same song," said a sound archivist, Cheryl Tipp.

Then there's the fawn-breasted bower bird in Papua New Guinea which learnt the sounds made by workmen mending a tin roof: the noise of hammering, sawing - even the rattles of a stray ball-bearing rolling around inside a paint can.

Mimicking sounds is an integral part of how birds learn to build up the vital repertoire of songs that they need to defend a territory or attract a mate, said Professor Tim Birkhead, an ornithologist at the University of Sheffield. "For a bird it makes absolutely no difference whether the sound is from an artificial source, from another bird or whether it comes from its dad," Professor Birkhead said. "Mimicry is the entire basis for how they acquire their songs and there are whole categories of birds that will happily incorporate other strange sounds into their songs to produce a vast, rambling repertoire," he said.

Marsh warblers and starlings are particularly good mimics and have been known to pick up and incorporate the distinctive songs of other species. "I once knew of a captive goldfinch with a very distinctive song. Within three months, the local starlings had learnt to imitate it and they were still singing the song two years after the goldfinch had died," Professor Birkhead said.

Andre Farrar, a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that his father used to call his Jack Russell terrier with a distinctive whistle. The local starlings soon learnt to imitate it and quickly learnt how to "call" the dog to the bottom of the garden. "There's an evolutionary advantage to birds who can augment their songs. Females of many species choose those males with the most complex songs, so there is a biological imperative to imitate sounds," Mr Farrar said.

Perhaps the strangest bird mimic is the black-throated honeyguide of Africa which mimics the sound of a bees' nest to attract the attention of local people. The bird then guides the humans to the hive itself to share the spoils.

But beware - birds don't like noisy neighbours. Studies have shown that as ambient noise from towns and roads increases, so does the tendency for songbirds to move to quieter sites.

Dutch scientists showed that it was the younger and more inexperienced birds that were forced to build their nests close to busy roads. Older, more experienced birds preferred to establish their territories well away from the sound of traffic, the scientists found.

If your computer modem sounds a little odd - try checking the tree outside.

According to a new CD released by the British Library today, what sounds like the search for a connection may, in fact, be a blackbird in full voice.

The CD, Bird Mimicry, is compiled from recordings held by the British Library Sound Archive which stores the world's largest collection of the sounds of nature.

Birds can mimic almost any sound, whether it comes from an animal within earshot or the noises of inanimate objects such as a squeaky farm fence, a mobile phone or a digital alarm clock.

Starlings have been known to learn the high-pitched, duo-toned screech of a car alarm. The sound archive's CD includes Sparkie Williams, a champion talking budgerigar, and the hand-reared bullfinches who were taught to whistle German folk tunes. "As the birds were taught the same tunes by different trainers, each bird sings a slightly different version - much like if two humans were whistling the same song," said a sound archivist, Cheryl Tipp.

Then there's the fawn-breasted bower bird in Papua New Guinea which learnt the sounds made by workmen mending a tin roof: the noise of hammering, sawing - even the rattles of a stray ball-bearing rolling around inside a paint can.

Mimicking sounds is an integral part of how birds learn to build up the vital repertoire of songs that they need to defend a territory or attract a mate, said Professor Tim Birkhead, an ornithologist at the University of Sheffield. "For a bird it makes absolutely no difference whether the sound is from an artificial source, from another bird or whether it comes from its dad," Professor Birkhead said. "Mimicry is the entire basis for how they acquire their songs and there are whole categories of birds that will happily incorporate other strange sounds into their songs to produce a vast, rambling repertoire," he said.
Marsh warblers and starlings are particularly good mimics and have been known to pick up and incorporate the distinctive songs of other species. "I once knew of a captive goldfinch with a very distinctive song. Within three months, the local starlings had learnt to imitate it and they were still singing the song two years after the goldfinch had died," Professor Birkhead said.

Andre Farrar, a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that his father used to call his Jack Russell terrier with a distinctive whistle. The local starlings soon learnt to imitate it and quickly learnt how to "call" the dog to the bottom of the garden. "There's an evolutionary advantage to birds who can augment their songs. Females of many species choose those males with the most complex songs, so there is a biological imperative to imitate sounds," Mr Farrar said.

Perhaps the strangest bird mimic is the black-throated honeyguide of Africa which mimics the sound of a bees' nest to attract the attention of local people. The bird then guides the humans to the hive itself to share the spoils.

But beware - birds don't like noisy neighbours. Studies have shown that as ambient noise from towns and roads increases, so does the tendency for songbirds to move to quieter sites.

Dutch scientists showed that it was the younger and more inexperienced birds that were forced to build their nests close to busy roads. Older, more experienced birds preferred to establish their territories well away from the sound of traffic, the scientists found.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Jungle Look
Goa's last King Wadiyar dead
PANJIM: Raja Savai Veer Sadashiv Rajendra Basavling
Wodeyar, Goa's last king who later became feudatory of Portuguese,
passed away at Belgaum on March 19. He was a direct descendant of the
Vijayanagar empire rulers of Belgaum. Popularly known as Raje Saundekar, the
King of Sonda, a historic place 10 kms from Sirsi in Karnataka, was
cremated at Nagzar-Curti, Ponda on March 20. The Kingdom of "Sonda"
consisted of the talukas of Ponda, Sanguem, Canacona and Quepem before the
Saundekars clinched a pact with the Portuguese in January 1764. The kings
lived for some time in a palatial house at Goalim Moula before shifting
to Nagueshim. He was 72, they said. The mortal remains of Wodeyar were
brought to Shiv Tirth palace, his residence in Nagueshi from Belgaum
for the last rites. Before the cremation, Prasanna Kumar was sworn in as
the new king in the palace in a colourful ceremony by his mother,
Umaraje Vadeyar in the afternoon at a packed audience, which spilled into
the compound of the Nagueshim palace and beyond, watched in rapt
attention. (GT)

Monday, March 20, 2006

24 Hours In: Mumbai
It's the home of Bollywood, a city of dreams. You've got just enough time for a snapshot...
By Kate Simon
Published: 19 March 2006

Day breaks across the bay

08.00: Open the curtains and survey the scene. Look beyond the crowds gathering on the sea wall to that hulking shadow cast across the waters of the bay. That's the reflection of your hotel, The Oberoi (1), a modern monolith on Nariman Point, (00 91 22 5632 5757), with 333 rooms arranged around a sky-high atrium.

Mingle with the 16 million

09.30: Grabbed breakfast? Then step out into the heat - and noise - and make your way through the throng to the Gateway of India (2). Throng is the word - this city is home to 16 million people and while it may be India's commercial centre and home to Bollywood, you will be shocked by the poverty. The Gateway was built in 1924 to celebrate the visit of George V. Ironically, it wasn't finished in time and is best known as the point from which the British left in 1947.

Cut loose in the caves or shops

11.00: Now you've got a choice. You could take a boat across the harbour to Elephanta Island (3), and spend the morning exploring the remarkable caves there, which contain Hindu carvings dating from the 6th century. Alternatively, head for Courtyard (4), 41-44 Minoo Desai Rd, a showcase for some of India's top fashion designers. Mumbai is shopping heaven, and if this is your favourite pastime, try out the personal shopping service offered by Greaves Travel (see below), where you'll be shown the best of Mumbai and introduced to a tailor to run up any garments you desire.

A lunch stop on every corner

13.00: It's lunchtime. Try some authentic local food from one of the street hawkers: a channa puri (raised bread with chickpeas) or dosa (lentil pancake).

History on foot, and a few overs

14.30: Take in some more culture with a guided Heritage Walk (00 91 22 2369 0992; heritagewalks@ hotmail.com). A good sightseeing choice is the Fort area, taking in the Victoria Terminus (5), a glorious Victorian-Gothic railway station, and the Maidans (6), the green lungs of Mumbai, where you can watch the locals playing cricket, from kids' games to serious matches. Then relax in the Oberoi's Banyan Tree spa.

Dine out with the in crowd

20.00: For chic dining try Vetro, the Oberoi's Italian restaurant. Or for Bollywood glamour, see and be seen at Indigo (00 91 22 5636 8980), 4 Mandlik Road, in trendy Colaba, which serves a European menu. Then on for drinks at Dome, on top of the InterContinental Hotel, 135 Marine Drive (00 91 22 3987 9999). Or join the locals for a stroll along Chowpatty Beach (7) and a beer at one of the shorefront bars.

The author travelled to Mumbai with British Airways (0870-850 9850; ba.com) and Greaves Travel (020-7487 9111; greaves india.com). BA offers return flights to Mumbai from £456. Four nights in Mumbai with Greaves Travel costs from £999 per person, based on two sharing, including BA flights, transfers, room only, sightseeing, services of a personal shopper

Day breaks across the bay

08.00: Open the curtains and survey the scene. Look beyond the crowds gathering on the sea wall to that hulking shadow cast across the waters of the bay. That's the reflection of your hotel, The Oberoi (1), a modern monolith on Nariman Point, (00 91 22 5632 5757), with 333 rooms arranged around a sky-high atrium.

Mingle with the 16 million

09.30: Grabbed breakfast? Then step out into the heat - and noise - and make your way through the throng to the Gateway of India (2). Throng is the word - this city is home to 16 million people and while it may be India's commercial centre and home to Bollywood, you will be shocked by the poverty. The Gateway was built in 1924 to celebrate the visit of George V. Ironically, it wasn't finished in time and is best known as the point from which the British left in 1947.

Cut loose in the caves or shops

11.00: Now you've got a choice. You could take a boat across the harbour to Elephanta Island (3), and spend the morning exploring the remarkable caves there, which contain Hindu carvings dating from the 6th century. Alternatively, head for Courtyard (4), 41-44 Minoo Desai Rd, a showcase for some of India's top fashion designers. Mumbai is shopping heaven, and if this is your favourite pastime, try out the personal shopping service offered by Greaves Travel (see below), where you'll be shown the best of Mumbai and introduced to a tailor to run up any garments you desire.

A lunch stop on every corner
13.00: It's lunchtime. Try some authentic local food from one of the street hawkers: a channa puri (raised bread with chickpeas) or dosa (lentil pancake).

History on foot, and a few overs

14.30: Take in some more culture with a guided Heritage Walk (00 91 22 2369 0992; heritagewalks@ hotmail.com). A good sightseeing choice is the Fort area, taking in the Victoria Terminus (5), a glorious Victorian-Gothic railway station, and the Maidans (6), the green lungs of Mumbai, where you can watch the locals playing cricket, from kids' games to serious matches. Then relax in the Oberoi's Banyan Tree spa.

Dine out with the in crowd

20.00: For chic dining try Vetro, the Oberoi's Italian restaurant. Or for Bollywood glamour, see and be seen at Indigo (00 91 22 5636 8980), 4 Mandlik Road, in trendy Colaba, which serves a European menu. Then on for drinks at Dome, on top of the InterContinental Hotel, 135 Marine Drive (00 91 22 3987 9999). Or join the locals for a stroll along Chowpatty Beach (7) and a beer at one of the shorefront bars.

The author travelled to Mumbai with British Airways (0870-850 9850; ba.com) and Greaves Travel (020-7487 9111; greaves india.com). BA offers return flights to Mumbai from £456. Four nights in Mumbai with Greaves Travel costs from £999 per person, based on two sharing, including BA flights, transfers, room only, sightseeing, services of a personal shopper
The Mumbai working lunch
Each day 'dabbawallahs' collect lunches from apartments and deliver them to thousands of workers in the city. Jeremy Hart reports
Published: 19 March 2006
The traffic lights outside Churchgate Station are red. And for a second the mayhem of Mumbai driving takes a breather. Hawkers are selling everything imaginable to drivers as they wait for green. A team of men balanced precariously on bamboo ladders are changing the Bollywood poster above the Art Deco Regal Cinema. Across the road, on a patch of brown grass, kids in whites are chasing the Indian cricket dream.

The most bizarre sight comes though when I check my rear-view mirror. There, above the dented roof-tops of black-and-yellow taxis, bob what look like two pall-bearers. Balanced between them is a 5ft wooden crate, supporting 50 rattling insulated tin tiffin boxes, or lunch containers, known in Mumbai as dabbas. That makes the men carrying them dabbawallahs - as much an institution as the London bobby.

Before the lights change, two more pairs of dabbawallahs fire across the bows of my Indian-built Ford Fusion, so close I fear this is where its unblemished bodywork (a rarity in Mumbai) will lose its sheen. They too are heading for Churchgate at the end of a daily operation that feeds half a million people with home-cooked food, delivered to them at work by an army of dabbawallahs.

Each day, 5,000 dabbawallahs descend on appartments across Mumbai to collect a home-made lunch and take it up to 30 miles across town to office and factory workers. "The British used dabbawallahs because they wanted their own food for lunch," explains Farida Dordy, a guide who uses a dabbawallah each day. "But they were just one group who preferred to have their own kinds of food for lunch. My husband and I are Parsi. He prefers a Parsi meal for lunch, so I or our maid Sulbha will cook him lunch and the dabbawallah will pick it up just after 9.30am each morning."

Logistically, what the dabbawallah army achieves each day is nigh on impossible. A team of Harvard statisticians has proved as much. Without computers, pretty well without mobile phones, relying on a relay system fraught with the potential for dabbawallahs being late, ill or even dying en route (two did last year), they weave across the city on a spider's web of routes. Churchgate Station is the hub of the dabbawallah network. At 11am, the station forecourt is packed as the lunch carriers pass their tiffin boxes down a supply chain that Forbes magazine rated with six stars - as reliable as GE or Motorola.

"They've never lost one of the lunches I do for my husband. In fact I've never heard of them being late or losing one," says Mrs Dordy, who pays 300 rupees (£4) a month for the service. "These guys are not like delivery people in London or New York, doing it for a short time. They are dabbawallahs for life and they all come from the Sahyadri range of mountains east of Mumbai, from a group of families who have been dabbawallahs since the 1890s. They offer a great service: messages, business, offers of marriage are all sent through the dabbawallah system."

At 2.30pm, about the time I am passing, the dabbawallahs make their return trips through Churchgate. Bicycles and Mumbai's train system are the dabbawallahs' preferred modes of transport. "On a bicycle we are king of the road," says DK Choudhry, a dabbawallah I meet the next day at Mrs Dordy's house. "We can go down no-entry roads, through red lights. You can't do that in your car, can you?" I dare not say yes. Mumbai driving might be free-form but there are still rules.

In terms of car ownership, Mumbai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. It won't be long before the infrastructure of India's biggest city has to change to accommodate all the new drivers. How much longer before dabbawallahs get motorbikes or even cars? "Never," reckons DK, who each year travels about 6,000 miles for his job.

Any moment now, Mrs Dordy's regular dabbawallah, Papu, will arrive to pick up lunch and take it to her husband at his office. She has prepared a paneer jalfrezi, or cheese curry, which will endure a two-hour journey that involves bike, train and three dabbawallahs following a series of codes inscribed on the tiffin box.

Spot on 9.40am, a wiry man in a loose-fitting Nehru suit and open sandals appears at the door. It is Papu. In 90 seconds he must be gone or he will start running behind schedule, which could throw the whole system out of kilter. Like a ghost on the wind, Papu is away.

DK comes with me in the Fusion to see if we can get to Captain Dordy's office before delivery at 11.45am. DK has never travelled in any car other than one of the marauding black-and-yellow taxis. I fear the shock might distract him from his job. But there is another problem: delayed by my complacency and a delicious breakfast, DK and I leave a half-hour behind Papu; we have about 70 minutes to beat him over 11 miles.

Twenty years of living in London does nothing to prepare me for the gloves-off fistfight of Mumbai driving. DK, though, is smiling. He seems to be enjoying the experience of a crazy European adopting a dodgem driver's attitude to his city. The traffic is glutinous. Each mile takes a good 10 minutes. The clock on the dashboard reads 11.35am. And there's still a mile to run.

Then disaster strikes. In the maze that is Colaba, Mumbai's business district, I miss a turning. For what seems like an eternity DK cannot help. But a unique code on the tiffin box, understandable only to dabbawallahs, pinpoints the area and the street and the building, even the floor number of the delivery address. DK points wildly at a dour 1960s office block to our left. Trouble is, the time is now almost 11.55am.

"You Jeremy?" enquires a suave middle-aged man as we puff out of the lift. I nod. "Glad you are here. We didn't want to start lunch without you."

I am gutted. DK is not sure whether to be disappointed or pleased that we have lost by nearly 20 minutes. "It shows that the old ways are better," he tells me. "The car was much nicer, much more comfortable, and, if we had left on time, just as quick. I'd much rather go by car every day. I just think I might have trouble delivering 35 lunches in time."

For £35 per person, Indus Tours and Travel (020-8901 7320; industours.co.uk) will organise a day with the dabbawallahs delivering lunches in Mumbai by train and bicycle. It offers seven nights in Mumbai from £1,150 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, private transfers and b&b accommodation.

The traffic lights outside Churchgate Station are red. And for a second the mayhem of Mumbai driving takes a breather. Hawkers are selling everything imaginable to drivers as they wait for green. A team of men balanced precariously on bamboo ladders are changing the Bollywood poster above the Art Deco Regal Cinema. Across the road, on a patch of brown grass, kids in whites are chasing the Indian cricket dream.

The most bizarre sight comes though when I check my rear-view mirror. There, above the dented roof-tops of black-and-yellow taxis, bob what look like two pall-bearers. Balanced between them is a 5ft wooden crate, supporting 50 rattling insulated tin tiffin boxes, or lunch containers, known in Mumbai as dabbas. That makes the men carrying them dabbawallahs - as much an institution as the London bobby.

Before the lights change, two more pairs of dabbawallahs fire across the bows of my Indian-built Ford Fusion, so close I fear this is where its unblemished bodywork (a rarity in Mumbai) will lose its sheen. They too are heading for Churchgate at the end of a daily operation that feeds half a million people with home-cooked food, delivered to them at work by an army of dabbawallahs.

Each day, 5,000 dabbawallahs descend on appartments across Mumbai to collect a home-made lunch and take it up to 30 miles across town to office and factory workers. "The British used dabbawallahs because they wanted their own food for lunch," explains Farida Dordy, a guide who uses a dabbawallah each day. "But they were just one group who preferred to have their own kinds of food for lunch. My husband and I are Parsi. He prefers a Parsi meal for lunch, so I or our maid Sulbha will cook him lunch and the dabbawallah will pick it up just after 9.30am each morning."

Logistically, what the dabbawallah army achieves each day is nigh on impossible. A team of Harvard statisticians has proved as much. Without computers, pretty well without mobile phones, relying on a relay system fraught with the potential for dabbawallahs being late, ill or even dying en route (two did last year), they weave across the city on a spider's web of routes. Churchgate Station is the hub of the dabbawallah network. At 11am, the station forecourt is packed as the lunch carriers pass their tiffin boxes down a supply chain that Forbes magazine rated with six stars - as reliable as GE or Motorola.

"They've never lost one of the lunches I do for my husband. In fact I've never heard of them being late or losing one," says Mrs Dordy, who pays 300 rupees (£4) a month for the service. "These guys are not like delivery people in London or New York, doing it for a short time. They are dabbawallahs for life and they all come from the Sahyadri range of mountains east of Mumbai, from a group of families who have been dabbawallahs since the 1890s. They offer a great service: messages, business, offers of marriage are all sent through the dabbawallah system."

At 2.30pm, about the time I am passing, the dabbawallahs make their return trips through Churchgate. Bicycles and Mumbai's train system are the dabbawallahs' preferred modes of transport. "On a bicycle we are king of the road," says DK Choudhry, a dabbawallah I meet the next day at Mrs Dordy's house. "We can go down no-entry roads, through red lights. You can't do that in your car, can you?" I dare not say yes. Mumbai driving might be free-form but there are still rules.
In terms of car ownership, Mumbai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. It won't be long before the infrastructure of India's biggest city has to change to accommodate all the new drivers. How much longer before dabbawallahs get motorbikes or even cars? "Never," reckons DK, who each year travels about 6,000 miles for his job.

Any moment now, Mrs Dordy's regular dabbawallah, Papu, will arrive to pick up lunch and take it to her husband at his office. She has prepared a paneer jalfrezi, or cheese curry, which will endure a two-hour journey that involves bike, train and three dabbawallahs following a series of codes inscribed on the tiffin box.

Spot on 9.40am, a wiry man in a loose-fitting Nehru suit and open sandals appears at the door. It is Papu. In 90 seconds he must be gone or he will start running behind schedule, which could throw the whole system out of kilter. Like a ghost on the wind, Papu is away.

DK comes with me in the Fusion to see if we can get to Captain Dordy's office before delivery at 11.45am. DK has never travelled in any car other than one of the marauding black-and-yellow taxis. I fear the shock might distract him from his job. But there is another problem: delayed by my complacency and a delicious breakfast, DK and I leave a half-hour behind Papu; we have about 70 minutes to beat him over 11 miles.

Twenty years of living in London does nothing to prepare me for the gloves-off fistfight of Mumbai driving. DK, though, is smiling. He seems to be enjoying the experience of a crazy European adopting a dodgem driver's attitude to his city. The traffic is glutinous. Each mile takes a good 10 minutes. The clock on the dashboard reads 11.35am. And there's still a mile to run.

Then disaster strikes. In the maze that is Colaba, Mumbai's business district, I miss a turning. For what seems like an eternity DK cannot help. But a unique code on the tiffin box, understandable only to dabbawallahs, pinpoints the area and the street and the building, even the floor number of the delivery address. DK points wildly at a dour 1960s office block to our left. Trouble is, the time is now almost 11.55am.

"You Jeremy?" enquires a suave middle-aged man as we puff out of the lift. I nod. "Glad you are here. We didn't want to start lunch without you."

I am gutted. DK is not sure whether to be disappointed or pleased that we have lost by nearly 20 minutes. "It shows that the old ways are better," he tells me. "The car was much nicer, much more comfortable, and, if we had left on time, just as quick. I'd much rather go by car every day. I just think I might have trouble delivering 35 lunches in time."

For £35 per person, Indus Tours and Travel (020-8901 7320; industours.co.uk) will organise a day with the dabbawallahs delivering lunches in Mumbai by train and bicycle. It offers seven nights in Mumbai from £1,150 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, private transfers and b&b accommodation.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Amália Rodrigues


Uma Casa Portuguesa

by Reinaldo Ferreira
Numa casa portuguesa fica bem
pão e vinho sobre a mesa.
Quando à porta humildemente bate alguém,
senta-se à mesa co'a gente.
Fica bem essa fraqueza, fica bem,
que o povo nunca a desmente.
A alegria da pobreza
está nesta grande riqueza
de dar, e ficar contente.

Quatro paredes caiadas,
um cheirinho á alecrim,
um cacho de uvas doiradas,
duas rosas num jardim,
um São José de azulejo
sob um sol de primavera,
uma promessa de beijos
dois braços à minha espera...
É uma casa portuguesa, com certeza!
É, com certeza, uma casa portuguesa!

No conforto pobrezinho do meu lar,
há fartura de carinho.
A cortina da janela e o luar,
mais o sol que gosta dela...
Basta pouco, poucochinho p'ra alegrar
uma existência singela...
É só amor, pão e vinho
e um caldo verde, verdinho
a fumegar na tigela.

Quatro paredes caiadas,
um cheirinho á alecrim,
um cacho de uvas doiradas,
duas rosas num jardim,
um São José de azulejo
sob um sol de primavera,
uma promessa de beijos
dois braços à minha espera...
É uma casa portuguesa, com certeza!
É, com certeza, uma casa portuguesa

More Amalia Rodrigues here: http://amalia-rodrigues.lyrics-songs.com/lyrics/230953/

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mon vieux Lucien!

Mon vieux lucien

Paroles: Michel Rivgauche. Musique: Charles Dumont 1961


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

8,39 €

Edith Piaf - Master Serie : Edith Piaf Vol. 2...

443 offres chez 5 marchandsPowered by Kelkoo
Quelle chance que t'as
D'avoir, Lucien,
Un vieux copain
Comme moi.
Moi, tu m' connais.
J'aime rigoler
Et m'amuser,
Pas vrai ?
Alors ce soir,
Histoire de rire,
Et tu peux m' croire
Sans réfléchir,
Comme ça pour voir
Et sans prévenir
J'ai dit aux copains :
"On va chez Lucien."

Quelle chance que t'as
D'avoir, Lucien,
Un vieux copain
Comme moi.
Tu peux t' vanter,
Lorsque j'y pense,
D'avoir d' la chance,
Tu sais !
Mais tu n' dis rien.
Tu m' laisses parler.
J' te connais bien.
Tu m' fais marcher.
Moi ça n' fait rien.
Tu peux y aller,
Mais maintenant, ça va
Et dis-moi pourquoi
Tu fais cette tête-là
Comme ça ?
Mais... Regarde-moi...
T'as les yeux gonflés.
Je t'ai réveillé ?
Ah non ! T'écrivais à ta Bien-aimée...
Qu'est-ce que tu caches là ?
Là...dans ton tiroir...
Eh ben, quoi, fais voir !
...
Tu voulais m' faire peur ?!...
Ah...Ha ! C' que t'es blagueur !

Quelle chance que t'as
D'avoir, Lucien,
Un vieux copain
Comme moi.
Mai j' te connais
Mieux que personne.
C'est c' qui t'étonne,
Pas vrai ?
Un autre que moi
N' comprendrait pas
Mais moi j' devine
Que tu m' taquines.
Tu veux peut-être
Finir ta lettre...
J' vais l' dire aux copains,
Et puis, tu nous rejoins...

Quelle chance que t'as.
C'est pas pour dire
Que j'aime bien rire,
Crois-moi !
Un autre que moi
Aurait marché
A ton ciné.
Pas moi !
Allez, au revoir.
A tout à l'heure.
T'en fais une tête, sacré farceur !
Ah non ! Bien sûr que j'ai pas peur !
Toi 'y a pas d' danger
De te voir un jour
Souffrir et mourir
D'amour...

...Lucien !...
Eh bien quoi, Lucien !...
Donne-moi c' que t'as dans la main !
Ah ! C' t'agréable, d'être ton copain !
Ah non, Lucien !
Allez...
Viens !...

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Indian tiger

And its Siberian cousin
The dammed: Environmentalists watch and wait for opening of world's largest dam
The world's biggest dam is to open in May, months ahead of schedule. The Three Gorges dam is viewed by supporters with pride as a symbol of China's economic and social change but environmentalists believe it is a catastrophe waiting to happen

By Clifford Coonan
Published: 17 March 2006
Environmentalists view the Three Gorges dam in China, the world's biggest, as a monstrous natural catastrophe waiting to unleash itself on the hundreds of millions of people who live near the Yangtze river.
The Chinese government is fiercely proud of the dam, which is due to open in a few weeks, saying it will stop the river flooding all the time, provide much-needed clean hydroelectric power and give ships from booming coastal cities such as Shanghai better access to central China.
Standing on top of the Three Gorges dam, looking down at the mighty Yangtze flowing below, which the dam seeks to tame, you are more aware than ever before of tension between the desire to maintain ecological balance and the need for progress and energy.
Everything to do with the Three Gorges project, sometimes known as the Great Wall of the Yangtze, is closely monitored - this correspondent was hauled in by the police for talking to a local activist who represents some of the million people whose homes were flooded by the dam and have been relocated to new towns in the region.
The 185-metre high dam goes live in May, months ahead of schedule, and the project is as potent a symbol as you will find of massive social, economic and technological change in China.
It's a stunning creation, and it is astonishing to watch the way the dam manages physically to hold back the third-longest river in the world, or how large container ships are floated up like toy boats by the dam's locks or how the surrounding mountains have been blasted, and towns and countryside flooded, to create the dam.
The dam is 1.4 miles wide, 10,000 people are working on its construction and it will cost £13bn, the government says, while others estimate the real cost is nearer to £40bn.
Beijing proudly trumpets the benefits for the 220 million people who live in the region around the Yangtze and will be served by the huge reservoir it creates.
"There will be an environmental impact but the benefits outweigh the harm and the loss. We had to move one million people and, sure, we flooded some areas but you can't compare the loss of millions of hectares of farmland to the safety of 50 million people," said Zhang Shuguang, one of the project's top engineers.
When the dam opens in May, its first function will be flood control - the Yangtze regularly bursts its banks and nearly one million people have drowned in floods in the past hundred years or so. The dam is supposed to stop this happening.
But building the biggest dam in the world involves social change on a massive scale, and even the most fervent backers of the dam agree that relocation has been a tough process.
"The Three Gorges dam is the biggest in the world, which means there were issues about technology, investment and migration. I think migration was the most challenging," said Zhang.
The government says one million people have been relocated, while other estimates vary between 1.3 and two million people moved because their homes have been flooded by the rising water of the reservoir.
In one of these new towns, Maoping, the dam forms a dramatic backdrop to a pleasant town where thousands of people were relocated during the 1990s. The new arrivals are pleased with the dam as they believe it will boost China, and they like the new houses, but many have nothing to do in their new homes.
"I used to be a farmer and I lived near a town that is now under water. A lot are doing unofficial transportation work, using motorbikes," said one villager. One middle-aged woman, knitting in a group with her friends, said she had a very nice flat which she liked and as whole communities were moved together, she still has her friends around her. "But me and lots of other people have nothing to do."
As we speak we are approached by Fu Xiancai, who says he represents relocated people who have not yet received their full compensation. Predictably, the dam has attracted huge amounts of corruption - one local official was executed in 2000 for taking more nearly £600,000 in bribes and scores of bureaucrats have been arrested for corruption. "Around 80 per cent of the migrant people I talk to are dissatisfied. We've nothing against the project, it's a good dam. But we want our compensation," said Fu.
Later he takes us to see where his house used to stand - it is not under water, but is part of a subsidiary dam near the main project. He has a new house near the site of the old one, complete with Mao portraits.
As two Finnish colleagues, a Chinese editorial assistant and I leave down a dirt road, we are stopped by police and local officials and held for nearly four hours in a chilly government building, before being taken into rooms and interviewed separately. Talking to Fu, no matter how innocently, is a breach of Chinese rules governing how reporters can work. They demand our notes and any photos we have and we are eventually released after signing a statement.
It is hardly surprising that the world's biggest dam should prove a sensitive area in a single-party state. But the dam also sparked the biggest ever political debate in Communist China's history.
The official dispute over whether to build the dam rocked the National People's Congress, China's annual parliament, back in April 1992 and a dam project centre near the Three Gorges has a display showing how nearly one-third voted against the dam or abstained - an unprecedented figure.
Li Peng, then prime minister, who was a fan of the project, declared debate over but final approval was not granted until 1992.
The most famous opponent of the dam in China is the energetic environmental activist and journalist Dai Qing. She opposes the dam because of the lack of public debate about such an enormous project, the fact that the warnings of independent analysts have been ignored and also because she sees it as a huge waste of money.
Her book criticising the project, Yangtze! Yangtze! earned her 10 months in a maximum security prison, during which she was threatened with the death sentence. "Our efforts may look weak and limited in comparison with the government's strong and thunderous media campaign. Whether history proves the project to be a success or a failure, the fact remains that we were simply a group of journalists who took our profession very seriously. We tried to do what we felt was right at a time when we were needed," Dai said.
Environmentalists believe that as the dam slows down the Yangtze, it will lose its ability to generate oxygen, while the waste flowing into the reservoir could turn it into a giant cesspool - 300 mileslong. Silt deposits could also prove a problem as they could choke parts of the river, blocking key ports like Chongqing.
The engineers are upbeat. They point to the fact that hydropower is a very clean source of energy compared to the coal-fired power stations that provide the lion's share of China's energy needs. And the government engineers believe the amount of sand and sediment in the river will balance out over the years.
"And of course, cleaning the reservoir is a vital aspect to us, all refuse will be cleaned away and the central government has imposed strict standards on this," said Zhang.
The cultural activists have already lost the battle - most of the 8,000 areas of historical and social interest have all been flooded. A warning here for other areas along the Yangtze perhaps?
Further along the river, construction of Xiloudu dam has begun, which will be the third biggest in the world when it is finished. Three other dams are in the exploration stage near Xiloudu - including one that will flood the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge in Sichuan province. All four of these dams together will produce more electricity than the Three Gorges dam.
Environmentalists view the Three Gorges dam in China, the world's biggest, as a monstrous natural catastrophe waiting to unleash itself on the hundreds of millions of people who live near the Yangtze river.
The Chinese government is fiercely proud of the dam, which is due to open in a few weeks, saying it will stop the river flooding all the time, provide much-needed clean hydroelectric power and give ships from booming coastal cities such as Shanghai better access to central China.
Standing on top of the Three Gorges dam, looking down at the mighty Yangtze flowing below, which the dam seeks to tame, you are more aware than ever before of tension between the desire to maintain ecological balance and the need for progress and energy.
Everything to do with the Three Gorges project, sometimes known as the Great Wall of the Yangtze, is closely monitored - this correspondent was hauled in by the police for talking to a local activist who represents some of the million people whose homes were flooded by the dam and have been relocated to new towns in the region.
The 185-metre high dam goes live in May, months ahead of schedule, and the project is as potent a symbol as you will find of massive social, economic and technological change in China.
It's a stunning creation, and it is astonishing to watch the way the dam manages physically to hold back the third-longest river in the world, or how large container ships are floated up like toy boats by the dam's locks or how the surrounding mountains have been blasted, and towns and countryside flooded, to create the dam.
The dam is 1.4 miles wide, 10,000 people are working on its construction and it will cost £13bn, the government says, while others estimate the real cost is nearer to £40bn.
Beijing proudly trumpets the benefits for the 220 million people who live in the region around the Yangtze and will be served by the huge reservoir it creates.
"There will be an environmental impact but the benefits outweigh the harm and the loss. We had to move one million people and, sure, we flooded some areas but you can't compare the loss of millions of hectares of farmland to the safety of 50 million people," said Zhang Shuguang, one of the project's top engineers.
When the dam opens in May, its first function will be flood control - the Yangtze regularly bursts its banks and nearly one million people have drowned in floods in the past hundred years or so. The dam is supposed to stop this happening.
But building the biggest dam in the world involves social change on a massive scale, and even the most fervent backers of the dam agree that relocation has been a tough process.
"The Three Gorges dam is the biggest in the world, which means there were issues about technology, investment and migration. I think migration was the most challenging," said Zhang.
The government says one million people have been relocated, while other estimates vary between 1.3 and two million people moved because their homes have been flooded by the rising water of the reservoir.
In one of these new towns, Maoping, the dam forms a dramatic backdrop to a pleasant town where thousands of people were relocated during the 1990s. The new arrivals are pleased with the dam as they believe it will boost China, and they like the new houses, but many have nothing to do in their new homes.
"I used to be a farmer and I lived near a town that is now under water. A lot are doing unofficial transportation work, using motorbikes," said one villager. One middle-aged woman, knitting in a group with her friends, said she had a very nice flat which she liked and as whole communities were moved together, she still has her friends around her. "But me and lots of other people have nothing to do."
As we speak we are approached by Fu Xiancai, who says he represents relocated people who have not yet received their full compensation. Predictably, the dam has attracted huge amounts of corruption - one local official was executed in 2000 for taking more nearly £600,000 in bribes and scores of bureaucrats have been arrested for corruption. "Around 80 per cent of the migrant people I talk to are dissatisfied. We've nothing against the project, it's a good dam. But we want our compensation," said Fu.
Later he takes us to see where his house used to stand - it is not under water, but is part of a subsidiary dam near the main project. He has a new house near the site of the old one, complete with Mao portraits.
As two Finnish colleagues, a Chinese editorial assistant and I leave down a dirt road, we are stopped by police and local officials and held for nearly four hours in a chilly government building, before being taken into rooms and interviewed separately. Talking to Fu, no matter how innocently, is a breach of Chinese rules governing how reporters can work. They demand our notes and any photos we have and we are eventually released after signing a statement.
It is hardly surprising that the world's biggest dam should prove a sensitive area in a single-party state. But the dam also sparked the biggest ever political debate in Communist China's history.
The official dispute over whether to build the dam rocked the National People's Congress, China's annual parliament, back in April 1992 and a dam project centre near the Three Gorges has a display showing how nearly one-third voted against the dam or abstained - an unprecedented figure.
Li Peng, then prime minister, who was a fan of the project, declared debate over but final approval was not granted until 1992.
The most famous opponent of the dam in China is the energetic environmental activist and journalist Dai Qing. She opposes the dam because of the lack of public debate about such an enormous project, the fact that the warnings of independent analysts have been ignored and also because she sees it as a huge waste of money.
Her book criticising the project, Yangtze! Yangtze! earned her 10 months in a maximum security prison, during which she was threatened with the death sentence. "Our efforts may look weak and limited in comparison with the government's strong and thunderous media campaign. Whether history proves the project to be a success or a failure, the fact remains that we were simply a group of journalists who took our profession very seriously. We tried to do what we felt was right at a time when we were needed," Dai said.
Environmentalists believe that as the dam slows down the Yangtze, it will lose its ability to generate oxygen, while the waste flowing into the reservoir could turn it into a giant cesspool - 300 mileslong. Silt deposits could also prove a problem as they could choke parts of the river, blocking key ports like Chongqing.
The engineers are upbeat. They point to the fact that hydropower is a very clean source of energy compared to the coal-fired power stations that provide the lion's share of China's energy needs. And the government engineers believe the amount of sand and sediment in the river will balance out over the years.
"And of course, cleaning the reservoir is a vital aspect to us, all refuse will be cleaned away and the central government has imposed strict standards on this," said Zhang.
The cultural activists have already lost the battle - most of the 8,000 areas of historical and social interest have all been flooded. A warning here for other areas along the Yangtze perhaps?
Further along the river, construction of Xiloudu dam has begun, which will be the third biggest in the world when it is finished. Three other dams are in the exploration stage near Xiloudu - including one that will flood the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge in Sichuan province. All four of these dams together will produce more electricity than the Three Gorges dam.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St Patrick's Day today!

Bluff your way in Irish.

Interactive book of facts.
Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear
'I fought off bullies with wordplay'
Interview by Jonathan Sale
Published: 16 March 2006
Michael Bond, 80, is the author of the 70 Paddington Bear books, which have sold 30 million copies in 40 languages, including Latin and Mandarin. He has also written the Olga da Polga series. The latest in his adult detective series, Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Militant Midwives, is out on 2 April
As I recall, in one of the Paddington books, the Brown family get a visit from the school inspector, who says that Paddington must go to school. He duly goes and ends up serving the school meals - rather disastrously - and, although he's not actually expelled, he's asked not to come back again. Paddington had, of course, been educated by his Aunt Lucy, who taught him English in Peru after he lost his parents in an earthquake. She decided that it was no life for a young bear in the Home for Retired Bears where she lived, so she sent him to England.
There's nothing sadder than refugees. I have a vivid memory of seeing, when I was about 13, boys in Reading with labels round their necks and carrying suitcases. They had been uprooted from the East End at the beginning of the war and sent away by parents who thought they might never see them again. That's why I gave Paddington a label round his neck saying, "Please look after this bear".
I was born in Newbury in 1926, and we moved to Reading, where I went to a "council" school that was rather rough. I didn't stay there very long - my mother didn't like it because the children had to have a lie-down after lunch in blankets that were rather unclean. My parents weren't Catholics, but they sent me at about seven to a Catholic school called Presentation College - my mother liked the rich purple of the blazer, although it faded in the summer, so the colour only lasted one season.
I was not totally happy there. It was quite a strict school, run by Brothers who carried rubber straps and were fond of using them. When I went, the school was in an old house and there were about 25 pupils. It started to expand and a proper school was built with a laboratory, which they showed to new parents. I don't think that, being Catholic, they believed in science, and they kept the laboratory locked. I was well taught in the basics, like tables, but no one set my mind afire. I don't think the Brothers had been taught to be teachers.
There was a lot of bullying. Most children have a defence mechanism; I had wordplay. I remember making up a sentence: "The verbosity of your impudence is atrocious, and if you do not resume your former attitude I shall be bound to administer adequate punishment." That stopped my tormentors in their tracks, and the other boys were impressed. Brother Ambrose, who had it in for me, called me up on stage and said, "Tell the boys what it means". That deflated me. I had no idea.
I wasn't a very good student. At home, I made a marionette theatre with big revolving stages. That was my main occupation, and school took me away from it. I never actually put on a show because the theatre was up in the attic and, during an evening performance, the light would have shone through the gaps in the tiles. During the blackout, this would have been a beacon for enemy planes. That left matinées, but no one wanted to come in the daytime, and my mother didn't like heights. I got my main pleasure from building it.
I left Presentation College at the age of 14; by then, war had broken out. Before I had left the college, I went in one morning and some large Dutch boys were smoking in the classroom; they had been evacuated.
I realised the full horror of the war when The Magnet, the boys' magazine in which Frank Richards used to write a complete Billy Bunter story every week, was stopped because of the paper shortage.
jonty@ jonathansale.com
Michael Bond, 80, is the author of the 70 Paddington Bear books, which have sold 30 million copies in 40 languages, including Latin and Mandarin. He has also written the Olga da Polga series. The latest in his adult detective series, Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Militant Midwives, is out on 2 April
As I recall, in one of the Paddington books, the Brown family get a visit from the school inspector, who says that Paddington must go to school. He duly goes and ends up serving the school meals - rather disastrously - and, although he's not actually expelled, he's asked not to come back again. Paddington had, of course, been educated by his Aunt Lucy, who taught him English in Peru after he lost his parents in an earthquake. She decided that it was no life for a young bear in the Home for Retired Bears where she lived, so she sent him to England.
There's nothing sadder than refugees. I have a vivid memory of seeing, when I was about 13, boys in Reading with labels round their necks and carrying suitcases. They had been uprooted from the East End at the beginning of the war and sent away by parents who thought they might never see them again. That's why I gave Paddington a label round his neck saying, "Please look after this bear".
I was born in Newbury in 1926, and we moved to Reading, where I went to a "council" school that was rather rough. I didn't stay there very long - my mother didn't like it because the children had to have a lie-down after lunch in blankets that were rather unclean. My parents weren't Catholics, but they sent me at about seven to a Catholic school called Presentation College - my mother liked the rich purple of the blazer, although it faded in the summer, so the colour only lasted one season.
I was not totally happy there. It was quite a strict school, run by Brothers who carried rubber straps and were fond of using them. When I went, the school was in an old house and there were about 25 pupils. It started to expand and a proper school was built with a laboratory, which they showed to new parents. I don't think that, being Catholic, they believed in science, and they kept the laboratory locked. I was well taught in the basics, like tables, but no one set my mind afire. I don't think the Brothers had been taught to be teachers.
There was a lot of bullying. Most children have a defence mechanism; I had wordplay. I remember making up a sentence: "The verbosity of your impudence is atrocious, and if you do not resume your former attitude I shall be bound to administer adequate punishment." That stopped my tormentors in their tracks, and the other boys were impressed. Brother Ambrose, who had it in for me, called me up on stage and said, "Tell the boys what it means". That deflated me. I had no idea.
I wasn't a very good student. At home, I made a marionette theatre with big revolving stages. That was my main occupation, and school took me away from it. I never actually put on a show because the theatre was up in the attic and, during an evening performance, the light would have shone through the gaps in the tiles. During the blackout, this would have been a beacon for enemy planes. That left matinées, but no one wanted to come in the daytime, and my mother didn't like heights. I got my main pleasure from building it.
I left Presentation College at the age of 14; by then, war had broken out. Before I had left the college, I went in one morning and some large Dutch boys were smoking in the classroom; they had been evacuated.
I realised the full horror of the war when The Magnet, the boys' magazine in which Frank Richards used to write a complete Billy Bunter story every week, was stopped because of the paper shortage.
jonty@ jonathansale.com
Battle of the ballets: From Russia, a pas de deux
Two big names of ballet, two exciting summer seasons at London's main opera houses. And not a hint of rivalry in sight. Yeah, right, says Arts Correspondent Louise Jury
Published: 16 March 2006
They are two of the biggest names in world opera and ballet, with pedigrees stretching back to the days of Catherine the Great and the Russian empire. And this summer the British public will get the chance to make a direct comparison of the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) and Bolshoi companies as they go head to head on the London stage in an astonishing clash of the titans.
The Bolshoi begins a month-long residency at the Royal Opera House on 25 July with the first-ever visit of its opera company to Covent Garden, followed by a season of performances by its ballet company. This is the 50th anniversary of its first appearance in London, and interest was expected to be high.
But Russian fever heightened further yesterday when it was announced that the Mariinsky Theatre will also undertake a London residency in July, with performances of both opera and ballet at the London Coliseum starting five days earlier.
For fans, there was both delight and surprise at what could prove an expensive summer for those eager to catch not only two world-class companies, but some new and rare repertory. And although all parties are trying to play down the element of competition between the two great Russian ensembles, it is clear that comparisons will be made.
Valery Gergiev, the charismatic artistic director of the Mariinsky (which was renamed Kirov by Joseph Stalin and has since reverted to its historic name), managed to step up the tension even while trying to insist there was none when he spoke from New York yesterday. "I hope that both companies will be successful. I think we do not have a sense of rivalry or competition, though maybe it looks like that on paper - two famous companies trying to out-do each other," he said.
"I've been responsible for the Mariinsky for nearly 18 years. The Bolshoi has changed maybe three or four or five times in the leadership position. Maybe that's a good thing ... but it feels we have much more stability.
"I wouldn't comment on the quality. I think you can see it for yourself. But we make a lot more recordings with the symphony orchestra, we play maybe 10 concerts against every single concert that the Bolshoi plays and we play regularly at the Carnegie Hall and the Barbican. Maybe it's not that we say we're better, it's a totally different structure."
Music and ballet-lovers will be champing at the bit to see both. Zoe Anderson, dance critic of The Independent, said she was genuinely excited because the companies were not normally in the same place at the same time.
"They don't usually go head to head and balletomanes like to compare and contrast. But it's also exciting because they are both doing unusual repertory."
The Mariinsky residency announced yesterday will be called Shostakovich on Stage. It will include highlights of the company's celebration of the centenary of the birth of Dmitri Shostakovich which will be presented in May and June at its Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg.
There is the chance to see works the company has never presented in Britain before, including the Shostakovich operas The Nose, based on a satirical story by Gogol, and Katerina Izmaylova, a revision of his earlier opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. There will also be the ballet version of his Leningrad Symphony and his ballet, The Golden Age, which is a new staging especially for the centenary year.
The Bolshoi season, too, includes three new works, including a new version of Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella and, continuing the Shostakovich theme, the first British performances of his ballet The Bright Stream, which was banned by Stalin in the 1930s but, now revived, has attracted rave reviews in Paris and New York.
The opera programme will include the Bolshoi's celebrated production of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov at Covent Garden for the first time.
Lilian Hochhauser, the promoter who has been bringing Russian stars to the UK for half a century and is presenting the Bolshoi this summer, is obviously slightly disappointed there will now be a clash. "It's not a question of concern about the clashes but it's a pity one can't savour the companies separately. All of these artists are at the height of excellence. They are top of the league. It seems strange that it should happen."
She notes, sadly, that five years ago when she was bringing the Mariinsky, she courteously dropped its production of Lady Macbeth from the programme because the English National Opera was presenting its own. She questions the wisdom of having The Nose at the Coliseum and at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House at virtually the same time.
And she defends the "immensely strong and rich repertoire" of the Bolshoi. They had always had "a great resonance," she said. "We first brought the Bolshoi over in 1963. Subtly, things change, but they have never lost their bravura, they're still a very dashing company."
But she is also generous about the rival programme - not least because Shostakovich was a personal friend until his death in 1975. "He was a genius and he deserves it," she said. "He was a very nice and gentle man to talk to. He had a great deal of turmoil going on in his life, he was obviously under great stress [working under the Communist government], but he was never less than polite."
Valery Gergiev said the Mariinsky would probably have been at the Royal Opera House with the Hochhausers had they wanted to return to London for "another season of traditional repertoire". But he said: "I do not believe this is what London expects or wants from the Mariinsky. I think we should not do another seven Swan Lake performances or four Bayadères. We can do it very well, everyone knows, but that is not what I wanted."
British audiences were already responding warmly to the cycle of Shostakovich symphonies he has been conducting at the Barbican Centre in London and he believed they would be interested in the work the Mariinsky was preparing for the Shostakovich centenary - namely, all the great Russian composer's works for the stage. "Unquestionably Lady Macbeth and its second version, Katerina Izmaylova, are gigantic, impressive works for the theatre. Then there is The Nose, a very provocative opera, a very important step for a young man. Then there are an number of ballets that show his contribution to the progress of opera and ballet as a genre," Gergiev said.
"Visitors will maybe go to see Swan Lake [with the Bolshoi] but maybe those who are curious and experienced and want interesting presentations will be ready for Shostakovich evenings in London."
John Allison, editor of Opera magazine, said the buzz in opera circles had been around Gergiev and the Mariinsky in recent years - not least because their hectic programme made them seem to be everywhere. "It's interesting. I'm sure people will make comparisons and I'm not sure whether that will favour either in the end," he said.
"Historically for a long time, the Bolshoi was perceived as being the greater company but when Gergiev came in he reinvigorated [the Mariinsky]. It is perceived as having the upper hand over the Bolshoi. If you had to say which company was stronger, I would say the Mariinsky without a doubt, but that is not to dismiss the Bolshoi in any way. They do lots of interesting work and the Mariinsky does some quite duff work."
The Bolshoi production of Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel directed by the international superstar Francesca Zambello took Moscow by storm, for instance, when it was performed for the first time two years ago (it was never performed during the composer's lifetime). Covent Garden has previously presented the Mariinsky's own acclaimed production of the opera. "They really are going head to head," Allison said. "But I think it's good news. I'm sure the critics will be happy to have them both here at the same time. Competition is very seldom a bad thing."
Zoe Anderson said that what dance-lovers would be comparing was partly a matter of the two companies' respective styles. "Historically, the Mariinsky were very elegant and classical and refined. The Bolshoi were very big and muscular and heroic," she said.
"The Bolshoi had the highest jumps and the one-hand lifts and tremendous verve and energy and vigour. The Kirov [Mariinsky] didn't do that kind of vulgarity. The Bolshoi were of the people and the Leningrad lot were aristocrats."
But some of these differences were less pronounced today, she feels. "They were both Soviet state flagships and therefore until the end of the 1980s they were well-funded and well-looked-after. They have both had a tough time since and both have had to adjust," she said.
"They have both changed a lot during the past 15 years and some of the changes have slightly eroded the contrasts because they have both been looking at Western repertoire they couldn't do before. They now have more parallels than they used to."
The bold repertoire from the Mariinsky was a surprise, Anderson said. "I wasn't expecting to see this repertoire from them and the Shostakovich theme is interesting. This is a bonanza for Shostakovich fans. There are works that are being resurrected."
Ticket prices for the Shostakovich on Stage season at the Coliseum will range from £15 to £80 for ballet performances and £18 to £115 for opera. It was "clearly a non-commercial project," Gergiev said. To go ahead with the season, the Mariinsky has needed backing from the Russian Federation government, the foundation of the pools philanthropist Peter Moores and the Mariinsky Theatre Trust, whose 1,000 members have been supporting the company's work since 1993.
Caroline Gonzalez-Pintado, the Theatre Trust's chief executive, said: "The idea was really Gergiev's baby, we're just very pleased to be able to make it a reality." She added: "I don't think there will be an evening when the Mariinsky ballet is on stage at the same time as the Bolshoi ballet is on stage. I think there will be ballet at one [venue] and opera at the other. It's just a wonderful chance to see so much Shostakovich which we very rarely have the opportunity to see. UK audiences are going to be in for a real feast."
The Bolshoi
1776: Founded in Moscow by Michael Maddox, an English entrepreneur, and Prince Urusov, a patron of the arts
1806: taken over by the Imperial government
1825: The present 2,000-seat Bolshoi Theatre opens. Permieres of Glinka's Ivan Susanin and Ruslan and Ludmila in the 1840s mark the birth of a truly Russian school of composition
1877: First performance of Swan Lake, originally a failure but now a much-loved favourite
1917: Left-wing critics demand the removal of "bourgeois" composers such as Tchaikovsky from the repertory but moderate voices prevail
1920s: Bolshoi Theatre gives free concerts for soldiers and workers
2005: Reconstruction of the main Bolshoi Theatre stage begin, with performances only on its New Stage
2007-2008: Performances on both stages will restart
Mariinsky Theatre (formerly the Kirov)
1740s: First Russian ballet company is set up in St Petersburg, laying the foundation for what becomes the Mariinsky
1783: Catherine the Great establishes an official home for the Imperial Italian Opera
1860: New theatre for the Russian troupe opens, named Mariinsky after the Empress Marie who ordered it
1862: Verdi's La Forza del Destino receives its premiere
1935: The Mariinsky is renamed the Kirov by order of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in honour of Sergey Kirov, a Communist leader whose assassination the previous year marked the beginning of the Great Purge
2003: Dominique Perrault wins an architecture competition to design a new building for the theatre, which will sit alongside the old
2006: The Mariinsky Theatre closes for refurbishment
They are two of the biggest names in world opera and ballet, with pedigrees stretching back to the days of Catherine the Great and the Russian empire. And this summer the British public will get the chance to make a direct comparison of the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) and Bolshoi companies as they go head to head on the London stage in an astonishing clash of the titans.
The Bolshoi begins a month-long residency at the Royal Opera House on 25 July with the first-ever visit of its opera company to Covent Garden, followed by a season of performances by its ballet company. This is the 50th anniversary of its first appearance in London, and interest was expected to be high.
But Russian fever heightened further yesterday when it was announced that the Mariinsky Theatre will also undertake a London residency in July, with performances of both opera and ballet at the London Coliseum starting five days earlier.
For fans, there was both delight and surprise at what could prove an expensive summer for those eager to catch not only two world-class companies, but some new and rare repertory. And although all parties are trying to play down the element of competition between the two great Russian ensembles, it is clear that comparisons will be made.
Valery Gergiev, the charismatic artistic director of the Mariinsky (which was renamed Kirov by Joseph Stalin and has since reverted to its historic name), managed to step up the tension even while trying to insist there was none when he spoke from New York yesterday. "I hope that both companies will be successful. I think we do not have a sense of rivalry or competition, though maybe it looks like that on paper - two famous companies trying to out-do each other," he said.
"I've been responsible for the Mariinsky for nearly 18 years. The Bolshoi has changed maybe three or four or five times in the leadership position. Maybe that's a good thing ... but it feels we have much more stability.
"I wouldn't comment on the quality. I think you can see it for yourself. But we make a lot more recordings with the symphony orchestra, we play maybe 10 concerts against every single concert that the Bolshoi plays and we play regularly at the Carnegie Hall and the Barbican. Maybe it's not that we say we're better, it's a totally different structure."
Music and ballet-lovers will be champing at the bit to see both. Zoe Anderson, dance critic of The Independent, said she was genuinely excited because the companies were not normally in the same place at the same time.
"They don't usually go head to head and balletomanes like to compare and contrast. But it's also exciting because they are both doing unusual repertory."
The Mariinsky residency announced yesterday will be called Shostakovich on Stage. It will include highlights of the company's celebration of the centenary of the birth of Dmitri Shostakovich which will be presented in May and June at its Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg.
There is the chance to see works the company has never presented in Britain before, including the Shostakovich operas The Nose, based on a satirical story by Gogol, and Katerina Izmaylova, a revision of his earlier opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. There will also be the ballet version of his Leningrad Symphony and his ballet, The Golden Age, which is a new staging especially for the centenary year.
The Bolshoi season, too, includes three new works, including a new version of Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella and, continuing the Shostakovich theme, the first British performances of his ballet The Bright Stream, which was banned by Stalin in the 1930s but, now revived, has attracted rave reviews in Paris and New York.
The opera programme will include the Bolshoi's celebrated production of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov at Covent Garden for the first time.
Lilian Hochhauser, the promoter who has been bringing Russian stars to the UK for half a century and is presenting the Bolshoi this summer, is obviously slightly disappointed there will now be a clash. "It's not a question of concern about the clashes but it's a pity one can't savour the companies separately. All of these artists are at the height of excellence. They are top of the league. It seems strange that it should happen."
She notes, sadly, that five years ago when she was bringing the Mariinsky, she courteously dropped its production of Lady Macbeth from the programme because the English National Opera was presenting its own. She questions the wisdom of having The Nose at the Coliseum and at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House at virtually the same time.
And she defends the "immensely strong and rich repertoire" of the Bolshoi. They had always had "a great resonance," she said. "We first brought the Bolshoi over in 1963. Subtly, things change, but they have never lost their bravura, they're still a very dashing company."
But she is also generous about the rival programme - not least because Shostakovich was a personal friend until his death in 1975. "He was a genius and he deserves it," she said. "He was a very nice and gentle man to talk to. He had a great deal of turmoil going on in his life, he was obviously under great stress [working under the Communist government], but he was never less than polite."
Valery Gergiev said the Mariinsky would probably have been at the Royal Opera House with the Hochhausers had they wanted to return to London for "another season of traditional repertoire". But he said: "I do not believe this is what London expects or wants from the Mariinsky. I think we should not do another seven Swan Lake performances or four Bayadères. We can do it very well, everyone knows, but that is not what I wanted."
British audiences were already responding warmly to the cycle of Shostakovich symphonies he has been conducting at the Barbican Centre in London and he believed they would be interested in the work the Mariinsky was preparing for the Shostakovich centenary - namely, all the great Russian composer's works for the stage. "Unquestionably Lady Macbeth and its second version, Katerina Izmaylova, are gigantic, impressive works for the theatre. Then there is The Nose, a very provocative opera, a very important step for a young man. Then there are an number of ballets that show his contribution to the progress of opera and ballet as a genre," Gergiev said.
"Visitors will maybe go to see Swan Lake [with the Bolshoi] but maybe those who are curious and experienced and want interesting presentations will be ready for Shostakovich evenings in London."
John Allison, editor of Opera magazine, said the buzz in opera circles had been around Gergiev and the Mariinsky in recent years - not least because their hectic programme made them seem to be everywhere. "It's interesting. I'm sure people will make comparisons and I'm not sure whether that will favour either in the end," he said.
"Historically for a long time, the Bolshoi was perceived as being the greater company but when Gergiev came in he reinvigorated [the Mariinsky]. It is perceived as having the upper hand over the Bolshoi. If you had to say which company was stronger, I would say the Mariinsky without a doubt, but that is not to dismiss the Bolshoi in any way. They do lots of interesting work and the Mariinsky does some quite duff work."
The Bolshoi production of Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel directed by the international superstar Francesca Zambello took Moscow by storm, for instance, when it was performed for the first time two years ago (it was never performed during the composer's lifetime). Covent Garden has previously presented the Mariinsky's own acclaimed production of the opera. "They really are going head to head," Allison said. "But I think it's good news. I'm sure the critics will be happy to have them both here at the same time. Competition is very seldom a bad thing."
Zoe Anderson said that what dance-lovers would be comparing was partly a matter of the two companies' respective styles. "Historically, the Mariinsky were very elegant and classical and refined. The Bolshoi were very big and muscular and heroic," she said.
"The Bolshoi had the highest jumps and the one-hand lifts and tremendous verve and energy and vigour. The Kirov [Mariinsky] didn't do that kind of vulgarity. The Bolshoi were of the people and the Leningrad lot were aristocrats."
But some of these differences were less pronounced today, she feels. "They were both Soviet state flagships and therefore until the end of the 1980s they were well-funded and well-looked-after. They have both had a tough time since and both have had to adjust," she said.
"They have both changed a lot during the past 15 years and some of the changes have slightly eroded the contrasts because they have both been looking at Western repertoire they couldn't do before. They now have more parallels than they used to."
The bold repertoire from the Mariinsky was a surprise, Anderson said. "I wasn't expecting to see this repertoire from them and the Shostakovich theme is interesting. This is a bonanza for Shostakovich fans. There are works that are being resurrected."
Ticket prices for the Shostakovich on Stage season at the Coliseum will range from £15 to £80 for ballet performances and £18 to £115 for opera. It was "clearly a non-commercial project," Gergiev said. To go ahead with the season, the Mariinsky has needed backing from the Russian Federation government, the foundation of the pools philanthropist Peter Moores and the Mariinsky Theatre Trust, whose 1,000 members have been supporting the company's work since 1993.
Caroline Gonzalez-Pintado, the Theatre Trust's chief executive, said: "The idea was really Gergiev's baby, we're just very pleased to be able to make it a reality." She added: "I don't think there will be an evening when the Mariinsky ballet is on stage at the same time as the Bolshoi ballet is on stage. I think there will be ballet at one [venue] and opera at the other. It's just a wonderful chance to see so much Shostakovich which we very rarely have the opportunity to see. UK audiences are going to be in for a real feast."
The Bolshoi
1776: Founded in Moscow by Michael Maddox, an English entrepreneur, and Prince Urusov, a patron of the arts
1806: taken over by the Imperial government
1825: The present 2,000-seat Bolshoi Theatre opens. Permieres of Glinka's Ivan Susanin and Ruslan and Ludmila in the 1840s mark the birth of a truly Russian school of composition
1877: First performance of Swan Lake, originally a failure but now a much-loved favourite
1917: Left-wing critics demand the removal of "bourgeois" composers such as Tchaikovsky from the repertory but moderate voices prevail
1920s: Bolshoi Theatre gives free concerts for soldiers and workers
2005: Reconstruction of the main Bolshoi Theatre stage begin, with performances only on its New Stage
2007-2008: Performances on both stages will restart
Mariinsky Theatre (formerly the Kirov)
1740s: First Russian ballet company is set up in St Petersburg, laying the foundation for what becomes the Mariinsky
1783: Catherine the Great establishes an official home for the Imperial Italian Opera
1860: New theatre for the Russian troupe opens, named Mariinsky after the Empress Marie who ordered it
1862: Verdi's La Forza del Destino receives its premiere
1935: The Mariinsky is renamed the Kirov by order of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in honour of Sergey Kirov, a Communist leader whose assassination the previous year marked the beginning of the Great Purge
2003: Dominique Perrault wins an architecture competition to design a new building for the theatre, which will sit alongside the old
2006: The Mariinsky Theatre closes for refurbishment
How do animals migrate without getting lost?
Is it by smell, sight - or via a cosmic 'elastic band'? Sanjida O'Connell investigates
Published: 15 March 2006
The tiny Arctic tern flies 14,000 miles from the Farne Islands to Australia when it is three months old. In the course of its life, a Manx shearwater will travel 5,000,000 miles. A baby turtle will cross the Atlantic and end up in the same spot off Florida 10 years later. But how do these migrating creatures navigate?
Harry Marshall, producer of Paranormal Pigeons, due to be screened on Five in May, says pigeons are "the key to unlocking this mystery". They are able to return to their lofts even when they've been released in an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away, yet scientists have failed to agree on a reason why.
Dr Tim Guilford of Oxford University thinks they do it by using visual landmarks. Guilford, himself a champion paraglider, says: "When you're flying you realise that what is normally a three dimensional landscape becomes very two dimensional, almost map-like.I think that's the way birds see the world."
He and his colleagues have attached GPS devices to pigeons that log their flight. Using Ordnance Survey maps it appears that pigeons do seem to follow major routes, like roads, back home. When they've been released in an unfamiliar location, the pigeons circle, before flying to an obvious landmark like a church and picking up their normal route again.
Even though Guilford's findings back up this suggestion, more than 30 years ago it was shown that pigeons wearing opaque contact lenses could still find their way home. Nor does it explain how birds like the Arctic tern can circumnavigate the globe without ever having been to the place they're headed for.
Professor Wolfgang and Dr Roswitha Wiltschko of Frankfurt University believe it's down to magnetism. They claim that pigeons have a compass in their eye and a magnetometer in their beak to measure the intensity of the earth's magnetic field, and thus whether they are north or south of home. Roswitha says: "You know when you are standing upright and I think it's something similar to that."
The pair could be on to something. In Science, Dr Kenneth Lohmann, from the University of North Carolina, published evidence that suggested baby turtles navigate through the Sargasso Sea using a magnetic map. He exposed loggerhead turtles to a magnetic field generated by an electric coil that mimicked the earth's magnetic field at three key locations along their route. When the turtles were exposed to a field like the one that occurs near Portugal, the turtles paddled south, which is what they would have done had they really been swimming in the area.
A third theory comes from Dr Anna Gagliardo, who believes that pigeons navigate by smell. Gagliardo, from the University of Pisa, claims the birds follow scents blown in on the winds. Harry Marshall agrees. "It's not about following a scent trail," he says. "Each landscape has its own olfactory signature. The birds then remember where these lie in relation to each other, like a patchwork of odours."
Gagliardo has some convincing evidence to back up her claims. She raised two groups of pigeons in sheds made of chicken wire, one of which had glass put round it so that any wind blowing in had to come in through the top. The pigeons in the open roost experienced breezes with distinct regional scents attached; those encased in glass had wind and smells, but did not know which scent had come from which direction. Gagliardo then released the pigeons over a lake so that they would not have any landmarks to use as guides. The pigeons who had been in the glass-enclosed shed were not able to find their way home, but those who had been in the other shed were able to.
But one man disagrees with all these theories. Dr Rupert Sheldrake believes that animals use what he calls "morphic resonance". He thinks that there is a memory in nature, and that objects resonate with it, so that pigeons will return to their loft as if attached by an invisible elastic band that stretches through the cosmos. In a cunning experiment, the Paranormal Pigeon team set out to test his hypothesis. With the help of Ragsy, a pigeon fancier, pigeons were raised in a shed in Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire. The loft was floated a few miles up and down the canal, showing the pigeons that their home could move - not something that they would ever have come across. Then the loft, minus its inhabitants, was towed out to sea and the pigeons were released from Sharpness. Ragsy waited by the shed, growing increasingly seasick. Eventually the floating shed was towed back. The pigeons were sitting waiting, 55 hours later, when their home reappeared. The cosmic elastic band seemed to have snapped.
Sanjida O'Connell is the author of Sugar: the Grass that Changed the World, published by Virgin Books. Paranormal Pigeons will be shown on Five on 3 May
The tiny Arctic tern flies 14,000 miles from the Farne Islands to Australia when it is three months old. In the course of its life, a Manx shearwater will travel 5,000,000 miles. A baby turtle will cross the Atlantic and end up in the same spot off Florida 10 years later. But how do these migrating creatures navigate?
Harry Marshall, producer of Paranormal Pigeons, due to be screened on Five in May, says pigeons are "the key to unlocking this mystery". They are able to return to their lofts even when they've been released in an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away, yet scientists have failed to agree on a reason why.
Dr Tim Guilford of Oxford University thinks they do it by using visual landmarks. Guilford, himself a champion paraglider, says: "When you're flying you realise that what is normally a three dimensional landscape becomes very two dimensional, almost map-like.I think that's the way birds see the world."
He and his colleagues have attached GPS devices to pigeons that log their flight. Using Ordnance Survey maps it appears that pigeons do seem to follow major routes, like roads, back home. When they've been released in an unfamiliar location, the pigeons circle, before flying to an obvious landmark like a church and picking up their normal route again.
Even though Guilford's findings back up this suggestion, more than 30 years ago it was shown that pigeons wearing opaque contact lenses could still find their way home. Nor does it explain how birds like the Arctic tern can circumnavigate the globe without ever having been to the place they're headed for.
Professor Wolfgang and Dr Roswitha Wiltschko of Frankfurt University believe it's down to magnetism. They claim that pigeons have a compass in their eye and a magnetometer in their beak to measure the intensity of the earth's magnetic field, and thus whether they are north or south of home. Roswitha says: "You know when you are standing upright and I think it's something similar to that."
The pair could be on to something. In Science, Dr Kenneth Lohmann, from the University of North Carolina, published evidence that suggested baby turtles navigate through the Sargasso Sea using a magnetic map. He exposed loggerhead turtles to a magnetic field generated by an electric coil that mimicked the earth's magnetic field at three key locations along their route. When the turtles were exposed to a field like the one that occurs near Portugal, the turtles paddled south, which is what they would have done had they really been swimming in the area.
A third theory comes from Dr Anna Gagliardo, who believes that pigeons navigate by smell. Gagliardo, from the University of Pisa, claims the birds follow scents blown in on the winds. Harry Marshall agrees. "It's not about following a scent trail," he says. "Each landscape has its own olfactory signature. The birds then remember where these lie in relation to each other, like a patchwork of odours."
Gagliardo has some convincing evidence to back up her claims. She raised two groups of pigeons in sheds made of chicken wire, one of which had glass put round it so that any wind blowing in had to come in through the top. The pigeons in the open roost experienced breezes with distinct regional scents attached; those encased in glass had wind and smells, but did not know which scent had come from which direction. Gagliardo then released the pigeons over a lake so that they would not have any landmarks to use as guides. The pigeons who had been in the glass-enclosed shed were not able to find their way home, but those who had been in the other shed were able to.
But one man disagrees with all these theories. Dr Rupert Sheldrake believes that animals use what he calls "morphic resonance". He thinks that there is a memory in nature, and that objects resonate with it, so that pigeons will return to their loft as if attached by an invisible elastic band that stretches through the cosmos. In a cunning experiment, the Paranormal Pigeon team set out to test his hypothesis. With the help of Ragsy, a pigeon fancier, pigeons were raised in a shed in Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire. The loft was floated a few miles up and down the canal, showing the pigeons that their home could move - not something that they would ever have come across. Then the loft, minus its inhabitants, was towed out to sea and the pigeons were released from Sharpness. Ragsy waited by the shed, growing increasingly seasick. Eventually the floating shed was towed back. The pigeons were sitting waiting, 55 hours later, when their home reappeared. The cosmic elastic band seemed to have snapped.
Sanjida O'Connell is the author of Sugar: the Grass that Changed the World, published by Virgin Books. Paranormal Pigeons will be shown on Five on 3 May