Month: April 2014

Remembering 9th April 1989: Gone, but not forgotten

9th April 1989. The Berlin Wall was still standing, the Ceausescus were still breathing and events in Tbilisi which included hunger strikes reached a climax. The events of 9 April 1989 were the culmination of weeks of demonstrations for Georgian independence and against separatism of Abkhazia. 


The demonstrations were mostly peaceful. At their peak, about 10,000 people are estimated to have been present. 

Minutes before 4am on 9 April, General  Radionov told his troops, who had been requested by Jumber Pastiashvili, first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, to clear the square, in front of the Georgian government building, on Rustaveli Avenue, by all means available. The Soviet troops attacked the demonstrators with clubs and sharpened spades. The clashes left 20 people dead, mainly young women.

Images of the twenty dead.

Images of the twenty dead.

An hour before the attack the Georgian Patriarch, Ilia II, begged the crowds to leave the Square.


Mzia Jincharadze


A year later, on 9 April 1990, Georgia adopted a Declaration of Independence. Today the day is marked with a National Holiday in Georgia.


flowers strewn in front of the old Parliament Building


My wife was among those in the square that day, she fled the square and sought refuge in Rustaveli Theatre.

Images from 1989:

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Death: some thoughts

Peaches Geldof and Mickey Rooney

Peaches Geldof died, yesterday (7 April) aged just 25. I first learnt of this as with many celebrity deaths through a Facebook status comment, Andrew McFall wrote : “Shocked by the death of Peaches Geldof…”, I immediately went to the BBC news site to find out more. Mickey Rooney also died this week aged 93. I didn’t know either celebrity personally, I only remember seeing one of Mickey Rooney’s films “Night at the Museum”, all I remember of Peaches Geldof was a clip on Facebook where she was arguing with Katie Hopkins about motherhood. Katie Hopkins, like Piers Morgan seems to be one of those people who thrive on others disliking them, I did see Peaches’ father Bob Geldof live on stage in 1990 and I also read his book. RIP Peaches. RIP Mickey.


These deaths got me thinking about death and my own mortality. I am approaching 50, a time for reflection; the Hindus suggest going on a pilgrimage when you are fifty, by that time you should have sorted out your material needs and should turn your attention to your soul. I have said I’d be interested in walking one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago del Compostela this summer, possibly starting in Porto. I read about this pilgrimage in Paulo Coelho’s first book “The Pilgrimage.”

Facebook Friends dying

What do you do when a Facebook friend who you vaguely know dies suddenly? Mark J Smith from Yorkshire was one such friend, I never met him in real life but we interacted here on Facebook. He was 52, a similar age to me and passed away suddenly last month. His brother posted some information on his page. Mark isn’t the first I have maybe a dozen dead Facebook friends, now. Some I knew in real life and some I just knew through their online presence.


Before I came to Georgia, I had never seen a dead human body. Here it is the tradition when someone dies, to place the body on a table. Women sit alongside the body quietly or wailing and the men make a circuit of the body before exiting. I have been to three funerals here, the dead people, I didn’t know in life but I knew many of their relatives.  When I die, I would like my body to be cremated, but that is not a common practice here in Georgia.

My Own Mortality

One thing I know for sure is that I will die someday. I don’t know when. I don’t smoke, I am not overweight and I drink very little alcohol. My father died at 78, the average age for UK males. Maybe I will live until 78,  maybe not. In the night I woke and my heart was racing unaccountably. Could this be a portent for a heart attack? Bill Clinton had a relatively healthy lifestyle, apart from the stress of being President, but he still needed heart surgery. My first wife didn’t make it to 50, she died at the age of 46, possibly from cancer (I wasn’t in contact with her from 2000 when we divorced until 2011 when I was informed she had died).

Celebrity Deaths

A lot of famous people died young, Peaches Geldof being the latest, now I usually find out about these on Facebook. I was too young to appreciate the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix in the early seventies (all three aged 27 and all deaths were drug related). I didn’t realise how famous Elvis was until he died in 1977. John Lennon’s death was a slight shock in 1980, I was oblivious to Ian Curtis death in 1980, at the time, my musical tastes had yet to evolve to Joy Division. Kurt Cobain dying in 1994 was not really a shock, he had attempted suicide a few months previously, a music columnist Barbara Ellen, I think, had been rather sneering of the failed attempt, as though it were merely a publicity stunt. Princess Diana’s death momentarily stunned the nation in 1997, there was a massive outpouring of grief and then people seemed somewhat embarrassed by it all, as though it weren’t “British” to show such emotion. In the Facebook era there have been several notable deaths like Michael Jackson,  Mel Smith and Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Carl Hiaasen wrote an amusing book “Basket Case” about a 46 year old Florida obituary writer. The writer focused on death continually thought along the lines of “I’m now the same age as JFK was when he croaked..”


I believe that death isn’t the end of us. I am a Christian, I don’t have a clear idea of what happens to our soul after death but I believe there will be a good place (heaven, if you will) and a bad place (hell). I’m not sure the nature of either, and I don’t think the good place will be exclusive to one particular religion. I taught in a mosque in England for a few months and met many devout and peaceful Muslims. Good people and bad people can be found of all faiths and none. I think if we get to Heaven we will be surprised at who else is there. Some people I have seen on Facebook claiming to want to go to Hell because that is where all the interesting people will be…I don’t think that will be the case. Your final destination may be down to your own personal attitude, like an LSD trip, it would depend how you feel before as to whether you have a good trip or a bad trip and maybe those who are ardent atheists may just go out like a light into non-existence.




Reading in Georgian : The Fox and The Crow მელა და ყვავი

მელა და ყვავი The Fox and the Crow

მელა და ყვავი The Fox and the Crow


My reading in Georgian is still at the first level, here another children’s story with a moral.


The fox is walking in the wood, when he spies a crow in a tree with a piece of cheese.




For once I can understand what the fox says without resorting to a dictionary or “Google Translate” (which isn’t great from Georgian to English). “ყველი მინდა” (I want the cheese).

The fox is sneaky and flatters the crow telling her how beautiful she is, what beautiful wings and speculating that the crow has a beautiful voice, too.

the crow begins to caw and drops the piece of cheese

the crow begins to caw and drops the piece of cheese

The crow, susceptible to the flattery starts cawing… ყვაა…, ყვაა…. (which sounds more crow like than the English … caw… caw…) as soon as she opens her beak (ნისკარტი დაალო) the cheese is dropped.

the fox catches the cheese and gobbles it down

the fox catches the cheese and gobbles it down

The fox catches the cheese in his mouth.

The moral being you shouldn’t always believe flattery.

I think it is time I moved up to the second level of Georgian books.

I borrowed the following from the local “Mediatek” (library) : in addition to the Fox and the Crow, there is a level two book ვირისყურება მეფე (The King with Donkey Ears), a book about Saint George (წმინდა გიორგი) and another about იაკობ გოგებაშვილი (Jacob Gogebashvili), who created the Georgian a-b-c  ა-ბ-გ book

some Georgian reading

some Georgian reading

I always have high ambitions on leaving the library, but often return the books late and unread :/

Film Review: The Lego Movie

I have been a fan of Lego since a small child. This 3 D movie conveys the story of a Lego figure called Emmet and seemed at times to just be one giant Lego advertisement (product placement to the limit). I watched this film with my wife and my granddaughter Ana at Rustaveli Cinema dubbed in Georgian.


Ana with the poster for the Lego Movie

I could marvel at the amazing Legoland vistas but some of the smart cracking, which made my Georgian wife laugh passed me by.

Emmet the central character, a run of the mill figure is joined by a mixed group of Lego figures, who want to preserve free form Lego construction from the evil grips of President Business, who wishes to stifle creativity with instruction manuals and glue. Emmet’s team includes a kick ass female called Wyldstyle, Batman, cryptic wizard Vitruvius , an astronaut and a cat with a unicorn like horn (a uni-cat?).

Here is the trailer (in English), to give you a taste of the visual aspect of the film.

The film’s look has a certain Lego “clunkiness” as one may expect – the result of ensuring that every aspect of the landscape looks like it was assembled using a gazillion  Lego pieces. When water floods a compartment, it’s one stud Lego water. When fire erupts, it’s “Lego fire.” The goosestep marching of President Business’ minions has a Lego clunkiness.

The schizoid bad cop/good cop character is my favourite, his head spins from good to bad cop at will, delightful and funny.

Some of the film may be a little scary for a five year old, but Ana enjoyed it.

It is a  joyful, joke-filled parable about the joy of making stuff especially Lego stuff, the power of imagination and the pursuit of specialness, everything pretty much is awesome.  Early in the film, Emmet gets in his one person Lego car, turns on the radio and hears a song, “Everything is Awesome.” It’s meant to be a big  joke, an ironic stab at conformity in a place where being mindlessly happy is mandatory.

Maybe now I should get the Lego out and have a play.