View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 5 December 2009

5 December - St Nicholas

Today is the festival of Saint Nicholas, referred to as Sinterklaas in the Dutch speaking parts of the world.

Saint Nicholas was bishop of Myra, present-day Smyrna in Turkey. After his death, his remains were spirited across the Mediterranean to Spain. He is the patron-saint of children and travellers. Today, Sinterklaas arrives in a port in Holland aboard a steamship, surrounded by an entourage of Black Peters (Zwarte Pieten). They are black-skinned (long life shoe polish), a reference to the fact that Spain was occupied by Moors from North Africa, who were of a swarthy disposition.

Sinterklaas comes bearing gifts for all children in Holland, provided they have been good. Bad children will be picked up by Zwarte Piet and taken back to Spain in the big sack, which held the presents. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas will take to his white charger to ride across the rooftops of Holland. He will drop presents down the chimneys, and collect a carrot for the horse, left by the children in their shoes by the fireplace. Bad children will get a faggot instead of a present, provided they're not taken away. In order to actually get a present, children will have to sing a Sinterklaas song into the fireplace.

Repost from last year

Twitter followers

I am wondering why someone who is in favour of gun ownership (the Second Amendment in the US constitution) is following me on Twitter. After each gun atrocity in the US, I voice my pretty strident opposition to the undiluted right to bear arms. I wonder in the first place how they came across my little Twitter ID. But, such is the world of the Internet.

Saturday 5 December

Overcast and cold today, although 8C isn't all that desperately cold. Just the windchill in combination with the high relative humidity.

Three news items jumping out at me today: the life sentence handed down to Amanda Knox for her part in the killing of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, two years ago. It is a weird case, and I'll refer to the BBC report for details. It worries me that a verdict can be based so strongly on assertions that the suspect had the character traits of a murderer and behaved like a "she-devil". Obviously, I don't have access to the fine details of the case.

The Russian city of Perm, 900 miles east of Moscow, is mourning the death of 109 party goers. They died as a result of a fire in the Lame Horse nightclub, which appears to have been started by fireworks. A 1 minute videoclip shows the dancefloor being engulfed in smoke within seconds of the ceiling catching fire. Russia's president states the fire was a criminal act.