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Showing posts from March, 2007

Political Odds and Ends

The elections may be over but there has still been a little bit of tidying up to do, most of which happened while I was away. The Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet bringing in five new ministers, all but one of them from his own party. One of them, Bujar Nishani, the new Interior Minister, popped up in Kombinati today where there was a major fire at a styrofoam factory. The plume of thick black smoke which we watched rising into the sky will do wonders for the air quality. The previous Interior Minister, Sokol Olldashi, had resigned both his cabinet post and his parliamentary seat in order to take on Edi Rama. The resulting election for a new member of parliament in his constituency of Shijak left something to be desired. The problems came as no surprise. In the days before the election the CEC put out a lengthy statement warning of potential difficulties. On the day the opposition candidate withdrew and the Democratic Party candidate won with more than 90 per cent of the vote.

Dougal Gets His Rat

Dougal the dog sometimes gives the impression of being friendly but a bit thick. Throw a biscuit to Sampras and she can pluck it out of the air from just about any direction. Throw a biscuit to Dougal and he opens his mouth in the hope that it will just land in there. Since I am as bad at throwing as he is at catching it usually just bounces off his head. Give Dougal a rat to chase though, and he is a different dog. Catching rats requires a very impressive level of paw to eye co-ordination and tooth to eye co-ordination, but Dougal manages it regularly. Sometime in the last twenty four hours another rat was foolish enough to enter our yard where it met its doom. I found its stiffening corpse this evening lying in the grass. It was not the biggest he has ever caught, but I was impressed nonetheless. I feel it is only right to acknowledge Dougal's efforts with a picture, so here he is again.

It's Official

Ever since we arrived in Tirana we have heard rumours of Lufthansa's arrival. That never materialised, until now. In a recent press release Lufthansa announced that from 15 April they will be operating two flights a day to Munich. Munich is a fine city, but it is a little surprising that they did not choose to fly to Frankfurt. Berlin would have been nice for me since Air Berlin flies directly to Belfast from there. But Air Berlin also has a good route network out of Munich.

Captain Arsehole and the Pimpwagon

Walking home last night I was crossing a side street. For once the traffic lights were working and I had a green man. I was about three steps into the street when the arsehole mentioned above came zipping round the corner at high speed in his VW Touareg. Anyone who lives in Tirana knows the type: young, leather jacket, usually yacking on a mobile phone, black pimpwagon - Touareg, X5 or ML500, totally contemptuous of every other road user. The arseholes are too young and the pimpwagons too numerous to be legit, so I really shouldn't be surprised that a bunch of thieves, extortioners and drug dealers think the rules don't apply to them. Unfortunately, it's not just these particular morons who break the rules. Plenty of ordinary people in their 20 year old Merc's do the same. And why not? No-one stops them. There is no penalty for breaking the rules, so why expect anyone to keep the rules? I've never quite worked this one out. The obvious assumption would be that the t

On The Bench

Always a nice place to walk, the park is now a nice place to sit since lots of new benches appeared. These pictures were taken on Sunday morning. The last one gives an idea of what was there before.

A Multiplying Problem

It's getting harder to go for a peaceful walk with our friendly street hounds. All around our neighbourhood the number of street dogs seems to have shot up over the past few months. This morning we passed a pack of twenty near the park. Most of these dogs are young and have appeared over the last six months. I suspect the very mild winter we have had has something to do with it since more of the pups born recently have survived. Those dogs that have survived long enough to start breeding also have strong immune systems and are probably passing that on to their offspring. Something needs to be done, but shooting some dogs from time to time doesn't solve the problem. It just happens that there is a local group of Albanians and internationals who are actively trying to set up an animal shelter and clinic. I'm part of this group, so wish us luck.

Rip Off

I'm always surprised at how quickly my phone runs out of credit. I shouldn't be; I know how much AMC charge. But somehow I still can't get used to the extortionate costs of using a mobile phone here. So it comes as no surprise that AMC increased their profits by more than 20% last year to nearly EUR 50 million. It was also no surprise that the company has been fined for its anti-competitive practices, and that the Telecommunications Authority in Albania has declared that both AMC and Vodafone are 'non-competing companies'. Let's hope that the government has the courage to do something about these companies who are ripping off me, Albanian citizens and the whole country.