Portsmouth from a different angle…

I was flying back from Lisbon, Portugal to Gatwick after working for a brief (3) days.

I’m going home with Easyjet, the brand of the airline doesn’t really matter in this case as when I am flying I get the best experience with a seat next to a plane and have decent weather and visibility and be able to spot things from high up.  On the way over, I was with TAP (Portugese national airline) and got a luke warm cup of tea and a very small sandwich included, where as Easyjet make you pay high prices for food.

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So we are going north from continental Europe and I see this island.   I think this is Jersey.    Oh gosh I really need to watch repeats of 1980s TV detective series Bergerac now, although since reading up in Wikipedia, a lot of it was filmed in mainland UK as budgets were a bit tight.

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Now I see my home city of Portsmouth!!  This city has a distinctive shape as its effectively an island with three roads connecting it to the mainland.    Here if you look carefully you can see where Eastney (yes, the East corner bit)  meets with Hayling Island, a neighbouring protruding section of Hampshire south coast.   I think I need to move back there at some point soon.

 

 

Things that are different in UK after living in Israel

When I go back to the UK to see family and friends, there is a sense of reverse culture shock, I see quite a few shops and restaurants that have closed, opened or moved around my city, I think about 5 different friends have announced to me that they are having babies in the next year, and people I know that have moved to other towns.

Here is a humorous list of differences in the UK compared to life in Israel:-

  • Supermarkets only sell one type of Humous
  • Supermarkets don’t have Russian beers
  • People have less than 20 types of spices in their kitchen
  • British Arab and Muslim people are more likely to say ‘Alright Mate?’  when chatting to each other in the street rather than ‘Yalla Habibi?’
  • There are almost no 1990s cars in UK any more
  • Cars don’t usually have more than 6 dents in the bodywork
  • When you are out walking on a very hot day you don’t actually lose a whole pint of sweat in an hour
  • Bus drivers let you sit down before driving off 😉
  • Bus drivers don’t count cash/issue tickets/check their phones/change paper roll/talk to the chap sat behind them whilst driving
  • But buses and trains cost 3 times as much
  • Taxi drivers don’t try to rip off foreign people by saying the meter is “broken” or give a “special price”
  • Shops are open friday and often all year round
  • Post office costs 3 times as much
  • British motorists use their windscreen wiper switches more than their horn buttons
  • People only wear Crocs as indoor shoes
  • Light switches and electrical fittings are actually fixed to the walls with screws and don’t fall off
  • If you eat in an restaurant with outdoor seating, you don’t get 10-15 stray cats sitting there watching you for dropped food
  • People don’t get excited when it rains.  The exact opposite.

 

September back in UK and back in time for Rosh Hashana

I mentioned that I took some time back in the UK to see family, this was good to have a break, as I had been particular busy at work, and have new servers and network equipment to install quite soon, some of this will mean some weekend work maybe.   I hadn’t been back home since January so this was a good chance to relax for a bit.

Back in the UK, I decided to take a trip to London on a National Express coach to attend a prayer and demonstration outside of the House of Commons buildings in London, to stop Israel from being divided, and the very real threat of violence and war as a result of this.

There was about 300 people outside here, some of the banners were also in Hebrew as there were a few Messianic Jews and Hebrew speaking Christians there.   This was organised by Christian Middle East Watch, a ministry I haven’t heard of before, but was impressed at what the had to say.   The only thing that worries me, is that most British Christians that support Israel tend to be over retirement age, I wish there was more of all ages of people involved, for people praying, promoting and visiting Israel into the future.

Back in Portsmouth, I got a chance to have a decent roast dinner and beer for £6.50 (wow bargain!) with friends from church for lunch at a new Wetherspoons pub.   I also got to go blackberry picking with my family including my 1 year old niece by some bushes next to a golf course.   It was a bit of a shame I only got to see a fraction of the friends I wanted to see in the two weeks though.

I took a train to Wales to visit the UK office of the charity I work for, to roll out some necessary new equipment and antivirus software.  I didn’t manage to get everything done, but I have remote software to do some updates, the 2 hour time zone difference gives me an advantage that I can make some changes without disturbing the users from working.  Working at this site isn’t part of my official responsibility but I really wanted to do some preventative maintenance to ensure they are less likely to hit problems in the future.

Got to watch a brief bit of TV in Wales at our UK director’s house of the UN conference with Benjamin Netanyahu speaking, which he did brilliantly, with difficult decisions ahead with more determined plans for a Palestinian state being presented.

Slightly humourous moment on the plane back to Israel, I was flying on a Saturday so there weren’t any religious Israelis on the plane, but when using the toilet on the plane, someone had eaten some bacon flavoured crisps and left the empty packet behind on the floor!

Now back in Israel again, just at the right time before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), so I got only work half a week, and spend 2 1/2 days relaxing, actually had to 3 hours of important work from home due a server that broke just before leaving.  Its funny when celebrating the New Year (5772)  people aren’t actually waiting for a special change of a clock or anything like that, just good food and company of friends.

I am also fixing two other volunteer’s laptops, setting up a wireless router in a neighbour’s home which the current one won’t work with the HOT supplied cable modem for some reason, enjoying church, friend’s birthday evening out at a waffle restaurant today.

Visit back to the UK – Hindhead tunnel opens

Well, after the end of the summer it was time to have a break and fly back home to the UK It It was time for a well needed break to fly home and see family and church.

Seems quite a bit has changed whilst I have been away, quite a few shops have come and gone, and bits of Portsmouth looked little different in two years I have been mostly away.

On the way home from Luton airport, I saw this:

This was quite exciting, the new tunnel in Hindhead was now open!

Later on, I passed this place a week later, as I was getting a bus up to London.   The usual trip of going from Portsmouth to London Victoria the quickest route is normally 2 hours and 15 minutes, now its 1 hour and 45!

I remember this tunnel was rumoured in the early 1990s, now after something like at least 4 years of construction and £370m later its now working!  Heck in 2003, I did a sales job selling products to people in construction, and this was a juicy deal we wanted to get.

However, the old method of driving through Hindhead has a lot of memories.

One of my close friends lives in Hindhead which is only a few minutes drive east of this junction.

The new tunnel is certainly quicker and convenient, having said that, I quite like driving to the Devil’s Punchbowl in Hindhead.  Its a place I have been walking with my grandparents, there’s some interesting antiques shops by the traffic lights and businesses selling ride on lawnmowers and jacuzzis, and you can stop there to get petrol, so it makes a good halfway point when going to London.  Sadly the Little Chef got flattened and replaced with flats around the late 90s,  the Punchbowl has a place for some epic walks which I have done a few times.

This petrol station is the one and only place where I picked up a hitchhiker who told me he was driving a bus to Glastonbury (or another similar music event) as he worked there with the music industry, and the bus broke down getting him stranded so drove him to Havant.  I kicked myself later for not asking if I could cheekily get some free tickets for an event of some kind.

Driving past this point go round the steep bends is a little scary but fun, there has been quite a few accidents, which means sitting in long traffic sometimes, the sharpness of the bends further on meaning you are constantly changing between 2nd and 3rd gear, and makes it demanding and hard work but enjoyable driving especially with some good tunes in the car.

Photos date from 2009.  Silly Google, why didn’t you get your cars to overtake the blue truck which blocks the whole view of the road? 😀

Just like car ownership hasn’t completely eliminated people like riding horses, in post-volunteering life, when I get a car again and need to go this route, I think I will opt to alternate between the new and the old ways of driving. 🙂

Driving through the town of Hindhead and the old main road with its tight bends and hills is truly made of the stuff good road trips are all about I think 🙂   But heck, the new tunnel may become a legend in its own right, apparently the 1.9 mile stretch is used for people in high performance cars to race at night!

Don’t scrap the UK TV licence

Every now and then on the media, like Facebook, there is a campaign for people to abolish the UK television licence.

I wonder if people really think this is possible.  Is it possible for Auntie Beeb to operate with money out of thin air?  Especially as the government are making cuts on hospitals and the police at the moment.

Think about it, each TV company’s business model is as follows:-

BBC – annual subscription (required by law even if you dont watch this channel) but no commercials.

ITV/C4/C5 – commercials between shows, no subscription fee needed.

But then the channels on satellite and cable, ie: MTV have both.  This is why I don’t have cable or satellite, as I think it offers poor value for money. I don’t understand why I have seen some people plonk down upto £40 a month sometimes for terrible stuff.

I have had a freeview box but the software design of these devices is atrocious and the two different units I had would constant freeze and break down.   I will get another one but I need to look for some careful reviews first.  I think a lot of foreign people are quite jealous of British telly.

I don’t mind advertising, it should be non-intrusive, not to nag and be honest.   In all honesty, channels like MTV have double the number of adverts of ITV, and require a subscription.   The adverts are twice as frequent, and trashy often for annoying ring tones and premium rate telephone lines, sometimes adult stuff when its not even late.

I think MTV and music channels will disappear with music subscription services like all-you-can-eat internet music like Spotify will divulge into music videos at some point, or a similar competitor will, in the same way Google has made the Yellow pages book now only good for removing insects and fixing tables with short legs.

Maybe Youtube could evolve to show music videos continuously in such a way based on a predetermined set of music tastes that could also promote new bands as well as current favourites.

British TV licence is about £130, that £11 a month, which a large takeaway pizza and a big bottle of coke or curry at the medium scale of things.   I think that’s quite reasonable myself.

Lets keep the television licence but ensure that the fees are spent wisely.

 

Portsmouth and Jerusalem

The antisemitism watching blog ‘Seismic Shock’ (front page here) has come up with good stuff again.  http://seismicshock.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/the-small-print/
I was particularly interested about the boycott Israel meeting that happened in my home city of Portsmouth.
I was hugely relieved that there are no names of churches from my city involved, but usual attacks from various characters mentioned by Seismic and general political blogs like Harry’s place (not specifically pro-Israel, but have very good expose of unpleasant extremism stuff regularly)
The focus on the blog talked about the get together from various Methodist churches, it is sad when antisemitism comes from not just from stereotypical skin heads but from within churches, and this creates division and gives a poor impression to non Christians in my community.
For me this is not a representation of Jesus, but slander aimed at a nation that is not perfect but we are biblically obliged to pray for.  Its important we reject the common error of replacement theology (that is that Israel of the bible was permanently rejected by the new covenant of the church which Paul says is false in Romans)

In addition to this, modern day BNP-style political thugs the EDL, were on the news for protesting and intimidating Muslims also in Portsmouth outside the Jami Mosque.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-11752757

Some people maybe scared to visit Israel because of fears of terrorism, but in reality, I feel safer on the streets at night in Jerusalem than Portsmouth.  As the recent above story and immense dislike of the neighbouring city of Southampton, there is a fair amount of political craziness from Pompey.

Someone else I know did this kind of comparison of two cities they have lived in and showing the nicest parts of each.

There is some similarities here, both cities once had the same football club owner at the same time.   Both have a lot of history, although Portsmouth is 800+ years old, Jerusalem is about 4 times older and has about 700,000 people compared to Portsmouth’s 200,000 odd.

Both places you walk somewhere and bump into someone you know in the street.

Some of these comparisons are often more to do with the relative (Israel = 7 million, UK = 65 million) size of the country, thus the logistics of supplying things into this place as opposed to any political reasons.  Some things come out in the shops much later here in Israel (like the iPhone that wasn’t officially on sale until Autumn 2009)  also because of reasons like the unique nature of the Hebrew language which I guess was only probably implemented recently.

I have not mentioned things like terrorism threats as actual attacks are these days a rarity and certainly less deaths than an average robbery or domestic murder in a western city.

There is a wide range of different ethnic groups here, people are free to practice their own religion without much interference.

Of course both places share some bad things like lack of parking too.

Better things in Jerusalem

Excellent family life, most children have two parents, divorce/separation rate seems low

Not much crime or drugs

Not much issue with drunks/alcoholism

Vast range of places to eat out

Vast range of coffee shops and easy to get wireless internet

Fruit and vegetables are plentiful locally and cheap

Old city markets are great to get beautiful carpets, ornaments, spices, ceramics

People like to socialise a lot, but not always around alcohol, so going out is safe and fun for everyone in almost all cases.

Warm Mediterranean climate, its been often over 30 degrees in November.

Attractive design of buildings with consistent white stone facade on the outside gives this city a unique character

Most houses have their hot water heated using solar panels on the roof

Police and soldiers in the street all around give a sense of security and safety

Mobile phone usage seems quite cheap and there’s no problem with signal (despite this city is on several mountains)  120% (ie: lots of people have two) of Israelis have mobile phones.

Bus service is cheap and quite easy to get anywhere – just remember to hold on tight once you get on as they don’t wait for you sit down…

Immigration unlike many other countries is actively encouraged (if you are Jewish) A blessing to Jews who have previously lived in nations that were hostile or dangerous to them.

Better things in Portsmouth

Food (tinned/packaged) is much cheaper

You are never more than 1/2 a mile from a curry restaurant

You are never more than 100 yards from a pub

Road safety is above average, and most people’s cars have to be in safe and good order

Electrical fittings, switches, etc in shops and houses are not often wobbly or fall off in your hand

Health & Safety is strict, so you won’t walk past building sites where workman work around the public without fencing etc.

Bus drivers are mostly polite and don’t drive off until you have sat down

Relatively good amount of political stability

Going to bordering countries (France, Spain, Channel Islands) requires simple security clearance without being asked lots of questions

Its easy to buy spare parts for your car, IT hardware, other specialised things without having to have them imported from somewhere else

Very little risk of drought, and water infrastructure works well

Note: I don’t really like political debates and so I am quite fussy about whats allowed in comments below.  Sensitive subjects are welcome in a private message.

few weeks break to Spain and the UK

Apologies this blog has been quiet. I took a leave from Jerusalem for a short while for several reasons, I needed to visit to Gijon in northern Spain to see my good friend Ian get married, also then fly back home to the UK to see my sister and family who is expecting a baby this week, I also need to work on an email migration project for the UK office of the charity I volunteer for.

More soon….

Explosive geology of volcanos and natural disasters

Just a few days ago, the media reported that Britain told Israel it could not use the Western Wall in tourist marketing material.   Sounded ridiculous.  The next day a Britain and surrounding northern European nations have their airspace completely shutdown in the biggest downtime in international aviation history by an Icelandic volcano.   Whatever you want to make of this, I am praying that Britain and other countries do not attempt actions that could interfere with God’s plan for Israel.

Iceland is an amazing place, its in the top part of the Atlantic Ocean seated right on the split of the earth’s crust between Europe and North America.  Even before this recent event volcanos have fascinated me since I went to Iceland with some friends in 2005.  With 24 hour daylight during the spring that we went and electricity that runs off of heat produced by the water, this is one place like no other.

The volcano that went off in the Westman Islands off of South West coast in 1973, did destroy a fair bit of the town, but only one person died, the place was quickly rebuilt, but the most amazing thing was the people prayed the lava would stop, and it did!  right in front of the church gates.   I visited this place and bits of ruined houses are still left with lava rock wrapped around it.  It serves as a testament to the mostly Christian people of the Westman Islands the power of prayer.

Interestingly enough when volcanoes happen, cartographers have to rewrite the maps as the place will look radically different afterwards.

I am not a endtimes sort of person, but in the five months of this year there has been an awful lot of natural disasters lately, Haiti, China, Turkey and Chile just coming to mind.