Lotus celebrated its 70th Anniversary in style today at its Hethel site near Norwich. The sun joined in the celebration and shone brightly throughout the day. It was a huge privilege to be one of the company’s guests, and I’m very grateful to the hospitality and generosity of everyone involved. The day’s celebration finished with a procession of the largest number of Lotus cars ever to be on a track at the same time!
I very much hope that the images below capture something of the great history of the company, its cars, its staff and its owners!
Thanks once again to the Board and staff of Lotus for making it such a memorable occasion!
Participating in a conference in Tirana over the last few days has provided an opportunity to explore something of this fascinating city – a mixture of new constructions, communist era buildings, and a few much older medieval remnants. I hope that the images below capture something of its wide diversity: Skanderberg Square hosting a World Cup fan zone just a few days after it won the European Award for Urban Public Space (2018); Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox religious building reflecting the diverse beliefs of its people; the communist era bunkers and surveillance museum reminding us of the past; superficially refurbished shops beneath crumbling old housing blocks; the nearby woodland park and lake; diverse restaurants serving unusual combinations of food, with delicious local beer and wine… To these, though, need to be added the generous hospitality of our hosts! Thanks to Endrit Kromidha, and all those who made this visit possible.
When I last visited Sidi Bou Said, just to the north of Tunis, in November 2015 it was almost deserted, with tourists from across the world having largely chosen to go elsewhere following the shootings near Sousse in June of that year. I remember being saddened about the very visible loss of income for the many small traders who had previously made their livings selling souvenirs from the numerous small shops that lined its main streets. Revisiting the village yesterday on a beautiful warm, sunny day, with a cool breeze freshening the air, it was good to see the lively buzz of visitors filling the streets. It is a beautiful village, with the blue doors and shutters (reputedly to thwart mosquitoes) contrasting starkly with the whitewashed walls of the buildings.
It was also great to find that my favourite restaurant in the village, Au Bon Vieux Temps, was still there, and serving food as good as it has always done. The only sad thing was that the traders seemed very much more aggressive than I recall even in the dark days of 2015. A well-traveled friend and colleague reckoned it was the worst hassle he had ever experienced in a tourist resort! I had to agree, which is sad, because they would achieve very many more sales if they were a little bit less aggressive. Be warned, but go and enjoy Sidi Bou Said nonetheless.
Friends suggested that if I was able to take any time off from the North American School of Internet Governance meeting, and ICANN 61 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I should try and visit Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan). So, on a warm, sunny March afternoon I set about exploring the old part of the city, which was a fair walk from the Convention Centre!
San Juan was founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, around a fine natural harbour, and until the 19th century almost all of the settlement was contained within the impressive walls and fortifications of the city. However, by the late-1940s the physical and social fabric of the old city was in a state of disrepair, with buildings decaying and prostitution widespread. There was strong pressure to demolish much of the old fabric, and construct new buildings with modern architectural designs. Instead, thanks largely to local activism, especially by the anthropologist Ricardo Alegria, it was agreed to remodel the old city using traditional Spanish motifs and design elements. In 1949 the San Juan Historic National Site was established, and this became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It is now a lively place with numerous restaurants, shops and historic sites, and I hope that the pictures below capture something of the bright colours, impressive situation, and considerable diversity of Old San Juan. Thanks so much to everyone who suggested I should visit it!
The Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak is an isolated plateau at an altitude of around 1000 m on the border with Indonesia. Named after the Kelabit people who live there, it is also home to the Penan and Lun Bawang. It is a vast forested area, and has been subject to logging for many years. However, until recently it was largely without electricity other than that provided by generators or small micro-hydro plants, and roads have only reached the interior of the region in the last decade. Being so isolated, it is now becoming popular as a tourist location for trecking in one of the last wilderness areas of the world. Rice production dominates in the flat valley floors, but some Penan people still pursue their traditional hunter gathering practices. Some long houses are also still occupied and new ones are being built, although most people now live in individual houses, with many offering homestay opportunities for visitors.
I was recently invited to participate in the e-Borneo Knowledge Fair held in Ba’Kelalan from 25-27 October, and so had the amazing opportunity to visit both Ba’Kelalan and the neighbouring community of Bario. The rapidity of change, mainly brought about through the introduction of roads, electricity (a substantial new solar farm in Bario), and new ICTs, is transforming these communities, and in a few years they will be very different from how they appear now. I hope that the pictures below do justice to these beautiful areas, and to the generous hospitality of my hosts (including Lian Tarawe in Bario).
One of the many pleasures of being at IIT Delhi over the last fortnight was its proximity to Hauz Khas “village”, with its many restaurants and sites to explore. Originally, Hauz Khas was part of Siri, the second medieval city and fort of the Delhi Sultanate, dating mainly from the 14th century, and it was built alongside the royal water tank that gave it its name, Hauz meaning “water tank” and Khas meaning “royal”. Many buildings were constructed here by Firuz Shah, including a madrasa, a mosque, his own tomb, and domed pavilions, most of which were built soon after he became ruler in 1351. After years of decay, the area was redeveloped in the 1980s, and efforts have been made to restore the lake and its surrounding deer park as a tourist attraction and commercial area.
Hauz Khas has developed rapidly over the last decade, and is now a popular area for eating and boutique shops. After long days of meetings and teaching at IIT Delhi, it was good to be able to relax and sample the restaurants. One evening in the pouring monsoon rain we ate delicious south Indian food at Naivedyam (dosas, oothappam and idli), and on another it was good to catch up with Commonwealth Scholarship alumni at Rang de Basanti Urban Dhaba (for a wide range of traditional food typical of the roadside dhabas of India). My last night in Delhi on this trip was to the very different night-club atmosphere of Hauz Khas Social, where I felt the oldest person there by far! However, the food and drink were good, and it was nice to relax with a view out towards the lake (although the loudness of the music did make conversation difficult!).
I hope that the pictures below capture some of the atmosphere of this colourful and vibrant part of modern Delhi.
Thanks so much once again to Anushruti Vagrani for taking me to places I don’t think I would have been likely to venture by myself!
On a very hot Sunday afternoon yesterday, with temperatures reaching the high 90os F (high 30os C), colleagues (Priya Chetri, Srishti Minocha and Anushruti Vagrani) at IIT Delhi kindly took me out into the Haryana countryside where they are conducting a baseline survey on the use of mobile devices by farmers. In the first instance, this is investigating how helpful meteorological forecasts are to the farmers, but in the longer term it is also going to explore how sensors might be able to provide more refined information that would enable farmers to increase yields and thus profitability.
This was a great opportunity to immerse myself once again in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of the Indian countryside. We spent most of our time talking with farmers in the large village of Alawalpur, but after the interviews were over we were also shown one of the village’s special sites, the Baniewala Mandir. The temple itself was fascinating, but I had never expected to find the 500 cattle that are so well cared for alongside. The freshly made chai massala made from their milk after the interviews were done was absolutely delicious!
I hope that the following pictures reveal something of the adventure. I learnt so much, and am very grateful to Priya, Srishti and Anushruti for taking me there and to Dr. Upasna Sharma for arranging the trip.