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In my lifetime, I picked up a lot of information about various topics. It follows no one field of knowledge it is just a very diverse group of topics. I have interests in Archeology, history, languages, cuisine, culture, the arts, music, politics, diplomacy and protocol. On the other hand I have no interests in sports of any kind or the mundane, like television, american movies, pop culture including popular music, fast food and vulgarities.

This leads me to read on various topics, anything that strikes my fancy. I can walk into a bookstore and pick up a book, any book and read two or three pages and will know right then if I am going to buy it or not. My love of ancient sites and archeology. In Jordan I often visited the Roman city of Jerash or Gerasa in the Bible. A site built by the Romans and one which saw many roman generals and Consuls come to visit, some became later Emperors. The city has extensive ruins of temples and 2 well preserved theaters. On one such visit, I had read that after the Roman Legions were withdrawn in the fourth century AD, the citizens having lost their military protection decided to build walls to protect themselves from marauding Arab bedouins who would come and pillage in and around the city on a regular basis. I noticed that the walls in question were built hastily with no real defensive plan, more a stop gap. The stones came from other buildings and stacked on top of one another. This observation I made from studying the plan of the city and asking questions about how this had been achieved.

Same with my visits to the Roman Forum or to other Greek and Egyptian sites. In Khartoum all the British colonial buildings were off limits, this would have been the site of where General Gordon fought and died and the Anglican Cathedral. However from my hotel roof top you could see it all and with a plan identify the various buildings of the compound. Gaining an understanding of history and what happened.

I also love to visit art museum, Dresden has wonderful well curated museums, a few years ago I had been told that a retrospective of the works by Otto Dix was on show with the famous triptych to the first World War, painted between 1929-1932, a stunning painting in the modern realist style of Dix. He was a young soldier involved in this conflict and he manned a machine gun, a new invention in 1914, Dix was horrified to see that he could with his machine gun kill 100 men with no effort on his part. He came out of this conflict bitter and angry at politicians and society who failed to accept fully the horror of this conflict and the aftermath. Dix work was put under lock and key and he was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazi regime, what saved him was his war record and his fame in Germany.

The figures in this triptych is almost life size and dominates the room in which it is exhibited. Examining it in details and you understand what Dix is telling you.

There are many more paintings and works of art I love to study. Per example Auguste Rodin, I never really liked him until I started to look in depth at his work, he is thought to be the father of modern sculpture. He broke with the classical school by doing sculpture on a human scale instead of the larger than life which was the accepted method. His sculpture the Age of Bronze, 1876 or The Vanquished as it was originally called. Standing 72 inches tall or 1.80 metres, the model was a young Belgian soldier.

This sculpture comes after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Rodin like many artists was horrified at the violence of this war and the heavy toll on civilian population and the starving of Paris by the Prussian army.

One hand rest on his head and the other appears to be holding possibly a spear. The facial expression shows tiredness and resignation, this man is vulnerable and his pose indicates wanting to rest not one of aggression. What I did not known about Rodin was that he developed his ideas by working with clay and making balls of clay during hours until inspiration came to him. Then he would call in his assistants and explain to them what the project was about and he gave detailed instructions and set them to work supervising what they were doing correcting endlessly until he saw what he wanted to produce. Some people are put off when they discover that Rodin did not actually sculpt and that he often used one male figure he liked over and over again. Or used the model of his own hands in his sculptures. What is also very interesting is to discover the private personal life of artists. Many had very unconventional lives, being often in love with their own art rather than their family or children, think of Gaugin.

Historical details also fascinates me, how did this event happen and what were the consequences. I do not mean the hollywood version of history but the actual nitty gritty, the unsavoury elements. We all hear the same nonsense constantly about this or that historical figure without trying to find out if it is true or not. Forgetting that some history are fabricated by the victors or presented out of context.

Ancient Rome the time of the Republic or Ancient Greece the Age of Pericles, the virtues of ancient Democracy which has little to do with what we think of Democracy today. Or the lives of historical figures who are seen today as villains or heroes. It is always interesting to study various authors and what they discovered through correspondence or various texts.

Per example Austrian author Stefan Zweig and his wonderful book The World of yesterday, presenting a Europe which disappeared forever in 1914. The chronicles what life in Austria and Germany was like then and his travels and all the famous people who were his friends. Life was then so very different and it helps understand the people then and what happened afterwards. He is an author who really brings you into the subject one he lived through and was an actor and eyewitness.

Then cooking shows, I don’t like them all, I do have my favourites. Mostly watched on YouTube, giving you new ideas on old recipes. One is by the former chef to the Queen and Diana. He has lots of anecdotes and funny stories and shows off favourite recipes of the Royals. Thing is they have very similar taste to other people when it comes to food. The difference they can order exactly what they want from the kitchen and set up menus, or I should say the Queen sets up menus for all of them, what you can and cannot eat.

One story was about Friday’s meal at the Palace, being Friday then it’s fish and Fish and Chips is on the menu. He used only Yukon Gold potatoes for the fries and for the staff did a haddock in a nice beer batter but for the Queen she prefers Cod and she does not want greasy fish so it is done in the oven. In this case the Cod is first cut up in even similar size pieces, dredge in egg then in panco and put into the oven at 450F for 7 minutes. The fries must also all be the same size, the chef makes a little tower of them with 2 pieces of cod. Now the sauce that goes with this dish is really nice, it’s not mayo or tartare sauce, but a nice Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce which has that nice yellow colour. All the menus are written in French and Fish (cod) and Chips is Cabillaud et Pommes Frites, why in French because it is believed that French is the language of cuisine, I agree.

So many other things I know and have picked up over the years. It is silly I know but I do enjoy all these little details.

Cod or Cabillaud or Morue