An Evening with Luke Harding

On Monday night we went to the building in London that houses ‘The Guardian’, a newspaper that provides me with a lot of my reading.

On stage was the author of ‘Collusion’.  A journalist who spent a few years in Moscow, he has a lot of knowledge of Russia, how Putin operates and insights into the collusion between Trump and the successors to the KGB, the FSB and SVR, as well as Russian oligarchs and some of their relationship to the Trump empire.  Tawdry is one word for it, criminal is the other.

He was interviewed by an editor at The Guardian, who had also been stationed in Moscow, and following the presentation was a question and answer session.

One of the most interesting was a question about the Trump campaign’s digital adviser, Brad Parscale, and any collusion there may have been with the Russians.  The Trump campaign and the Russians were adept at sowing false news [thanks Mark Zuckerburg] and furthering divisions in American society to the level where I believe they are headed toward violence.  Brad Parscale was a key person in the sowing of that division.

Was there ‘digital’ collusion?  We won’t know unless the FBI brings something to light.  Clearly there was a lot of manipulation of the news to incite the far right, and that is something both Trump wanted and that furthered the interests of the Russians.   Was there collusion overall?  — without question.

Then, came the coincidental announcement yesterday by Trump, that Brad Parscale would head his campaign in 2020.

It was a great experience to hear someone who is unassuming, bright and knowledgeable, who has considerable depth in both knowledge of Russia and the Trump regime.

Okay – there are a few authors in the world, no more than three, whom I would ask to sign a book.  I did for Luke.  I asked him what he was currently working on — more of the same.   Russian destabilization.

Also during the talk he said that he believed that if Trump is vulnerable, it is in the area of his financial dealings, and particularly in the area of Deutsche Bank.  So the guidance is pay attention to the finances – the sex part is more challenging to corroborate.

Finally, he said some of the real heroes in Russia, are those who have been murdered under the Putin regime.  Those who oppose Putin run great personal risk and many have paid with their lives.

A Snowy London Afternoon


Heather checks the map – now where is The Guardian newspaper located?
Book promotion.

A Hike Near Sligo, Ireland

We went for a magnificent 2.5 hour hike up a small mountain just outside Sligo.  The trail was fairly rugged and steep.  As we climbed we enjoyed views of the green countryside below dotted with sheep below.

At the top was a Passage Mound…which is a burial tomb for a queen and her ancestors from 3200 B.C.

These structures are plentiful in the Sligo area.  Viewing the horizon from the summit, we could see the pyramid like shapes dotting the mountains around us.

Given their size one can only imagine the thousands of hours of labour –  a sign we had moved beyond the basics of food and a place to live.

UK Immigration – Our Appeal to the UK Ombudsman

Ah yes – that immovable force of British bureaucracy.  At long last we submitted our appeal to the UK Ombudsman.  We will publish a portion of our submission — but it is off our desk and on to their’s.

Now we will wait a year for the Ombudsman’s review.  Shameful on the part of UK Immigration.  Immigration in the UK charges money and they make a profit.  They make added profit for inefficiency, so it encourages inefficiency.

Clontibret – Part of Garry’s Family History

We visited Clontibret, and Irish village just on the border with Northern Ireland.  In particular we visited a small church property.  Pictured below is the new church, and also next to it are the remains of the old church.  This is where Garry’s great great grandparents were married in the first half of the 19th century.  Growing up I heard many references to Newry and County Monaghan so it was wonderful to see the area.


Clontibret is famous for an historical battle.  Just down the road from the church in 1547 was  the Battle of Clontibret was fought in County Monaghan in March 1595 during the Nine Years War between the Crown forces of England’s Queen Elizabeth I and the Irish army of Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone. The battle ended in victory for Lord Tyrone, and was the first severe setback suffered by the English during the war.

On 7 August 1986, in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Northern Irish unionist politician Peter Robinson led an “invasion party” of 500 unionist militants into Clontibret and held a military parade with drill in the square, before being forced by the Gardaí [police] to retreat back across the border. Irish authorities claimed that there were no more than 150 militants. Two Gardaí were beaten by the mob, while Robinson and others were arrested, tried, and eventually fined for the incident.

In front of the remains of the church where my great great grandparents were married.

We found it difficult to see the history of violence in such a peaceful landscape.




Garry and I were surprised by the cleanliness and the high standard of living in Ireland.  It was apparent that the Irish take a great deal of pride in their homes.

For our one week visit, we spent time in Dublin, Clontibret a tiny village, where some of Garry’s ancestors came from, Coleraine in Northern Ireland, Sligo, Doolin, Limerick and Kildare.  The countryside is pristine and dotted with large homes.  With sleek clean lines, almost austere, many appear to have had a Scandinavian influence in terms of design.

The Irish accent is lovely…much softer than the British accent.  But we learned to keep listening ears on, as many residents talk very fast.

We were also surprised with the amount of Irish Gaelic we heard around us.  There is some effort to keep Gaelic [or Irish] alive in the Republic, with an ongoing debate over signage that most Canadians would understand.

While Ireland works to preserve Irish as a language many in Northern Ireland feel threatened by any perceived incursion of the Irish language.  Particularly right wing politicians from the North see Irish language signage as an attempt to erase the British heritage of the north.

The city of ‘Londonderry’ in the North, is known as Derry in the south.  Many road signs in the north had ‘London’ spray painted over as a sign that the conflict is never far from the surface.


The Cats and Critters of Marrakech

If you’ve seen the movie Keti you will know how some of the street cats of Istanbul are cared for.  That care is also seen in Marrakech, where street cats are fed by nearby residents, shop keepers and others.  [This post is for you Judy, a true lover of cats everywhere.]

Just plain pretty.
Travel Cats
Laneway cats
Sphinx cat
I am not a cat

The City – Marrakech

One of the great features of England compared to Canada is the distance between countries.  In Canada it is a long flight to arrive in anywhere other than the U.S.

So here we go – a short three hour flight from Gatwick to Marrakech.   Arrgh – first problem is that earworm – ‘Marrakesh Express’ by Crosby, Stills and Nash.  No known medication.

Once past our initial “overwhelment” we were very taken with Medina, the old  city.  Medina is a generic term referring to the old city in many North African cities, as well as Malta.  In the main square of Jamaa el Fna we enjoyed the spectacle of the vast night market that included vendors, lines of horse drawn carriages, food stalls, hawkers, snake charmers and street performers.  Also from the minaret of the large nearby mosque, was the call to prayer broadcast by the speakers five times a day.
By day we visited the souks (traditional North African markets) which were comprised of over 1500 vendors throughout a winding labyrinth of narrow alleyways.  In the souks we found traditional Moroccan pottery, jewelry, carpets, leather goods and spices and just about anything else you could imagine.
I [Heather] tried my hand at bartering when I purchased a beautiful hand crafted bowl for about twenty five percent less than the original asking price.  Being the low season, I probably could have purchased it for less than the $22 Canadian I paid, but I respect the woman who crafted it, whom I expect has much less than me.
Chaotic, noisy and crowded, with mopeds and motorcycles bullying their way through the crowded streets, the souks are not for everyone.  But, they really offer a glimpse into a completely different local culture which I expect could diminish significantly in the next 20 years.
And now a word about some critters of Marakech.  It was sad to see many overworked donkeys pulling carts of goods through the streets.  Such beautiful creatures….to me the bray of a donkey is one of the most mournful cries in the world.  If you want to help there is a British charity that helps alleviate suffering of donkeys, located in Devon [which we hope to visit before we return home to Canada].
We will do a separate post of the cats of Marrakesh.  Mostly feral, numerous, and looked after communally by the vendors.  Appreciated I am sure for keeping rats and vermin under control.  A few times we noticed raw chicken and cat treats had been left on the side of the road for them.




It did not escape our attention that the person carrying chickens appears to be headed to the KFC ‘restaurant’ in the background.



Entertainment in the square, and nearby the snake charmers are playing a pungi.  A trick is to wrap the cobra around the neck of an unsuspecting tourist then demand payment to remove it.  Heather told me my responsibility was to ensure we did not get too close to the snake charmers.




Heather negotiates the sale of spices with a pleasant spice seller.

Storks — many storks nest around Marrakech. The inset shows the size and where the nest is located on the cell phone tower.
Jemaa el-Fnaa comes alive each night — although daytime is very active too.
Fast food