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I visited the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech on 11th October 2010 and it was hot in the sunshine as we queued for our tickets and then went inside through the gates. The garden was designed and laid out in the 1920s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle who designed marble pools, raised pathways, banana tree plantations, groves of tall bamboo, stately coconut palms and blousy bougainvilleas.
First of all we followed a path through species of prickly cacti collected from all over the world. The path led to a limpid lily pond that reminded me of Monet’s garden at Giverny in Normandy in France and which stood in front of a house, a museum now but closed today during refurbishment, which is painted a unique shade of blue. This seemed odd, it was in contrast to every other building in Marrakech and I wondered how the painter had managed to get around the crimson decree. The blue is called Majorelle and is made from pigment found only in the Moroccan soil and he must have been especially fond of it because as well as the house the garden was full of large pots all painted predominantly in this colour and contrasting nicely with others in orange, yellow, red and green.
Majorelle, it turns out wasn’t a great artist and his garden, rather than his paintings, was his masterpiece and it is composed and coloured like a work of art. As well as the pots, water is an important feature and there are flowing channels, lily ponds with reflections of the towering palm trees and bubbling fountains. He was an avid plant collector but after he died in 1962 the house was left empty and the garden abandoned for nearly twenty years. After a long period of neglect however the garden was then taken over and restored by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.
As we wandered along the meandering paths the blue sky suddenly gave way to grey cloud and within seconds we were in the middle of a heavy rain fall and we had to take cover in a café where there was shelter under the leaves of the banana plants planted around the perimeter. It took about twenty minutes for the heavy rain to slow down and before we could leave the shelter and then as the rain eased off we returned to the gardens which somehow managed to look even better now with the shiny wet pavements catching shimmering reflections of the brightly coloured pots.
The path took us around the blue house with its bright yellow windows and strategically placed pots, through wooden pergolas where exotic climbing plants raced each other to the top, past ponds full of goldfish and shiny terrapins and through the towering bamboo swaying in the breeze. A second wave of heavy rain passed over and we had to shelter next to the memorial to Yves Saint Laurent but it passed over quite quickly and we were able to continue the visit as rain drops splashed us as they dripped from the overhanging leaves.
On balance we would have preferred to have visited the garden without the rain but I suppose the plants all enjoyed the drenching.
I have come to the conclusion that if one thing is life is true it is that everything happens in cycles. Take British politics for example – there are two main parties in the United Kingdom and every ten years or so they alternate in Government and everything changes.
If, like me, your career is in the public sector times are generally good when the Labour Party is in power when there is a wave of investment in state services and not so good however when the Conservative Party gets an election victory and takes up occupation in Whitehall.
As a small side observation it’s a strange thing but many people who work in the Health Service and the Police and the Schools actually vote Conservative and personally I find that a strange thing to do! Actually, I find it totally bizarre that anyone would vote Conservative when they represent the interests of only a tiny minority of the population!
On 9th June 1983 the Conservative Party won the General Election and Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister and the country was engulfed in a wave of public sector bashing that as usual picked on local government for a real good kicking.
In the 1980s and 1990s the Tories thought that the private sector was, by definition, much more competent and efficient in these matters than the public sector and local authorities were required to offer certain services for open competition under what was called ‘Compulsory Competitive Tendering’. If only she had known the truth!
Rubbish collection was one of these services and so that the waste management companies could cope with all the new work and local authorities couldn’t cheat, the Government set out a phased three year programme and one by one local authority services were thrown into a private sector pond full of hungry piranha ready to strip the flesh off of public services, cynically reduce service standards and hopefully get fat at the council tax payer’s expense. As soon as the waste management companies spotted a contract they took a liking to they would express an interest, obtain the tender documents and specifications and go to work sharpening their pencils.
This was never a scientific process and the first thing the tendering manager did was to get up early one Monday morning and sit outside the council depot and count the dustcarts and the number of men in them as they left to go to work. And that was about all there was to it and half an hour later over a bacon butty and a cup of tea he would write this down on the back of a fag packet and by mid morning he would have a price in his head. Nothing else in his head, just the price! Sometimes, if he was being especially thorough, he would go back on Tuesday morning just to check his calculations but this would be quite unusual.
The tendering manager at Cory Environmental was called Tony Palmer and for Tony arriving at the tender price was gloriously simple. If the Council had ten refuse collection rounds, the company would do it with nine, and just in case the Council could do it for nine then they would do it with eight so that would immediately undercut the Council price by 20%. Just to make absolutely certain they would find out how much a refuse collector was paid each week and then they would reduce that by 20% as well. If the Council had three mechanics to keep the fleet running they would do it with two and so on and so on. There was no way these boys could fail to win tenders!
I worked for the private sector waste management companies for ten years between 1990 and 2000 and then thankfully with the return to power of the Labour Party was able to return to local government where services are provided properly through direct delivery.
You can probably imagine my horror therefore when ten years later ‘son of Thatcher’, the right wing extremist David Cameron, became Conservative Prime Minister in 2010 and has embarked on a similar dismantling of public services and twenty years after my first painful experience in the incompetent world of the private sector I find myself facing the same prospect all over again.
Following the War of Independence a protocol signed on May 7, 1832 Greece was defined as an independent kingdom. The Ottoman Empire was indemnified in the sum of 40,000,000 piastres for the loss of the territory. The borders of the Kingdom were reiterated in the London Protocol of August 30, 1832 signed by the Great Powers, which ratified the terms of the Constantinople Arrangement in connection with the border between Greece and the Ottoman Empire and marked the end of the Greek War of Independence creating modern Greece as an independent state free of the Ottoman Empire.
I am glad about that because Greece is my favourite place in all of Europe. For me the very best way to see the country and the islands is to hop on a ferry and drift between them setting down now and then to enjoy the history, the people, the food, the ouzo and the Mythos!
These are my journals about the places I have visited:
Which one would you choose?