Category Archives: 2010

232: Cuba 3 – Havana

view from the hotel sevilla habana cuba by roadsofstoneThe street outside Graeme Greene’s Hotel Sevilla is quiet, but as the dramatic Prado opens up beyond, suddenly the sheer scale of this paradox strikes me: Havana is truly a world city.

on the prado havana cuba by roadsofstoneColumbus sighted Cuba in 1492 and landed here two years later. The island has been a prize for empires ever since. Spanish, British and American armies all fought for this land.

street life in old havana cuba by roadsofstoneCuba’s history and her population embrace that diversity. Cubans of every shade and colour fill the streets.

And whether descended from white Europeans, African slaves or indigenous peoples, they’re all simply Cubans.

By rights, Havana should be the hub of Latin America, entrancing and captivating in her charm, passion and style as nowhere on Earth.
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231. Zürich

october morning  fraumünster and st peter river limmat zürich switzerland by roadsofstone

The October sky is grey and dank and the Zürich morning still half dark as I emerge into Weinplatz. The first leaves are scattered around the square, and at this early hour the weather looks unpromising.

The summer’s smug geraniums still adorn the hotel windowboxes, but they’re looking limp and vaguely threatened now. Autumn is brief here in Switzerland, and the winter’s not all that far away.

Behind me, the River Limmat is swirling gently northwards on its way to join my old friend the Aare near Brugg, and then onwards to join the Rhine for Basel, Germany and the sea. Tall churches and pretty wharfsides beckon beside the river, but for now I leave the waterfront behind me.

I know my way round here, in the biggest small country in the world.

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230. Autumn leaves and cobalt sky – 2010 London Royal Parks Half Marathon

ten ten ten westminster bridge royal parks half marathon london by roadsofstone

It’s ten past ten on 10.10.10 and I’m running across Westminster Bridge. The sun has just come out onto a perfect autumn day and Sunday mornings don’t come much more memorable than this.

royal parks half marathon london 2010 by roadsofstoneLondon has hosted a famous marathon every year since Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen held hands beneath Big Ben to share the first race victory one rainy day in March 1981. And now this soon-to-be Olympic city of ours has a world-class half marathon as well.

I head back along the bridge and east beside the Thames. There’s a soft breeze blowing leaves along the sunlit road under a clearing October sky. Across a silver slice of river, the London Eye is turning gracefully. The Embankment is my spiritual running home, and I’m very glad to be here.
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229. Ryder Cup 2010 – the perfect blue day

ryder cup 2010 blue scoreboard celtic manor wales sunday c visitwales comClear skies may have been in short supply in Wales this week, but at least by Saturday night the Ryder Cup scoreboard was showing its first hint of blue.

As I left home on Sunday morning to find a TV showing the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, news came through on the radio. The start of play had been delayed until noon, and then 1.30 pm. I’ve watched the last day of the Ryder Cup many times, but this year the weather and the schedule were both out of kilter.

Instead of a full Sunday programme, play would be restricted to the last nine holes of six fourballs and foursomes which had begun the day before. The singles matches to conclude the event would be delayed until Monday.

For just a very few moments, I pondered turning around. But, meagre as it was, this was all the live golf I would see in this Ryder Cup.

rainbow sky ryder cup 2010 celtic manor wales day 3 visitwales comFor me, and for many others, the Ryder Cup is the highlight of my sporting calendar. The reasons that the event is so special?

In truth, there are many. It’s all about pride, about fear, and about the vagaries and unique demands of match play in golf.

The Ryder Cup is about individual performance in the heat of the battle, and about bringing a team together to outdo even its own expectations.

On this side of the pond, it’s about proving the worth of the European Tour against the PGA Tour in the US. It’s about showing who are the best golfers in the world — for many years it really was the Americans, which is why we tried so hard to foster the illusion that maybe they weren’t.

That’s the Ryder Cup. It encapsulates so many glories in this game of golf, and it celebrates all that divides us and unites us across the Atlantic Ocean as well.
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228. Twin peaks in the Surrey Hills – two classic cycle climbs to Winterfold Heath

barhatch lane climb mid section cranleigh surrey england by roadsofstoneOver the summer I’ve discovered two more tough ascents in the Surrey Hills.

Both lead through the woods up to Winterfold Heath, deep in the Hurtwood Forest set high above Cranleigh.

footpath in winterfold forest roman road cranleigh surrey england by roadsofstoneThe Hurtwood is one of the largest privately owned estates in Surrey.

Mercifully, most of it is accessible on a dense network of footpaths, one of which is an ancient Roman road.

Maps below:
Alderbrook Road (A to B); Barhatch Lane (D to C)
barhatch lane alderbrook road climbs cranleigh surrey england google maps satellite view barhatch lane alderbrook road climbs cranleigh surrey england streetmap co uk

The two ascents are different.
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227. South Lincolnshire summer: Little Bytham and the Mallard

“The past is another country” — The Go Between, LP Hartley (1953)

august evening harvest fields bassingthorpe lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneAugust days are with us now, the ripe Lincolnshire corn shimmering tall and golden in late summer afternoons.

The stuffy, restrictive heat and bustle of London feels a world away from here.

grimsthorpe castle lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneThe landscape has changed little across the years — parched harvest fields and desiccated stately lawns still wait ready for a boy or girl delivering some fateful message to Julie Christie in The Go Between or Keira Knightley in Atonement.

Only the slow progress of the monster machines that gather in the harvest serve to tell the tale of a landscape now worked with many fewer people.

summer at the black horse inn grimsthorpe lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneAcross long, easy days we cycle over gentle Jurassic hills. Three miles to reach another village, four villages to find a pub. It’s a pleasant way to slow down and find the summer.

The pace of life seems slow, and it’s hard to equate this landscape with a world speed record set three quarters of a century ago and still standing firm today.
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226. The price of oil: 5 – Deepwater Horizon and the missing toolkit

florida beaches oil risk deepwater horizon press cutting july 2010Dear Don
And so they’ve capped the well for now, although storms aren’t far away and the oil is still out there across the Gulf. I really hope your Florida beaches manage to avoid it.

Elsewhere around the coast it’s a mess, and although hurricanes might spread the oil, a silver lining from experience of the Braer oil spill off the Shetland Islands in the 1990s is that severe storms may finally help to dissipate the slick.

bp poster wildcat road heathrow airport london england july 2010 by roadsofstoneDeepwater drilling is challenging. High Pressure / High Temperature drilling is difficult.

Combining these operations into drilling HP/HT deepwater wells is new within the past decade, pushing the technological envelope while incorporating the difficulties of both.

Although vilified for his PR gaffes, finally Tony Hayward did get it exactly right in one of his pronouncements last month, when he said that the real problem is we just didn’t have the toolkit to deal with problems in this setting.

In that sense, the Deepwater Horizon, just like the Sea Gem or Piper Alpha, will be a disaster which changes the way we do things for ever more beyond.
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