Thursday, December 30, 2010

Live Slowly. Die Old. End of Day 1.

I can hear some of you panicking that you’ve been subjected to a lot of random video footage already, and I am only now announcing the end of the first day (“and it was good”). However, it’s just that no travel diary/documentary/wildlife series would be complete without a tired sounding reflection on the day which has past.  So here’s our attempt. 

What a shame that Chris didn’t bring his pipe and slippers…

It’s time for dinner now, so we’ll have to leave you on that happy note.  More adventures from the next couple of days will follow at some point.

Live Slowly. Die Old. Portsmouth.

Some of you may be thinking that Chris only had one desire; to charm the girls with his English accent.  But no – the boy from Portsmouth (Hampshire) wanted to visit Portsmouth (New Hampshire).  So we did, without meeting any girls.  We didn’t see anything other than a stone plaque we had to clear some snow from, but it was a special moment.  Even though Chris didn’t actually wear the Pompey shirt.

I particularly like Patrick’s enthusiasm for the “beautiful” state of Maine…

Live Slowly. Die Old. Meeting Patrick.

In case you were wondering who Patrick was…though I’m guessing if you didn’t know him before you still don’t care.  Sorry about that, it was only 9 seconds if your life wasted.

Live Slowly. Die Old. Arrival…in Boston

It hasn’t taken us 24h to get from Terminal 5 to Boston (which is quite surprising given that it did take me 36h to get back from Holland last week) – but we have clearly had better things to do since we arrived than blog all the time.  Plus it’s fun to feed you bite-size chunks and leave some cliff-hangers.

Anyway, “so here we are” as I seem to say every time a camera is pointed in my direction.  If you want confirmation that we did leave T5 and have arrived in Boston I am pleased to present 39s of unedited banter.

The observant amongst you may notice my trademark sway. If you were hoping for hand gestures instead, blame the fact that I was holding on to my bag.  Either way, it’s a sign that I was quite excited to have finally arrived (there were no attractive girls around, so it can’t have been that…).

Proud to be British?

Apologies for interrupting the ‘Live Slowly. Die Old’ travel diary experience, but I am feeling the need to pass comment on something.  I might be Stateside, but I still look to the BBC for my news – and I was horrified today to see that the headline on the main page for this article was “I Coast attack may restart war.”  “I Coast”?! Who calls it that? How hard is it to write “Ivory”? 

At this rate, the BBC News Page will have a ‘Page 3’ before long…

Live Slowly. Die Old. The Mystery Book.

As I kick back after dinner, I have less desire to edit videos then I do to write.  So rather than some flashy compilation for the day I shall continue to enthral you with random clips.  Some of you may be wondering why I have entitled this series “Live Slowly. Die Old.”  Some of you know that I took advantage of the ‘mystery book’ scheme at Billingshurst library, and may be wondering what masterpiece lay hidden within the Christmas wrapping.

Watch this next installment and all will be revealed…

Live Slowly. Die Old. Arrival…at Terminal 5.

“Stateside adventures” may have been a bit misleading – because at this point in our (still unedited) video diary, we’re not Stateside yet.  In fact, all we’ve done is been on a bus.  Even for the transport geek buried deep inside me, it was not the most exciting thing.

As you will see, if you bothered to watch this 21 second masterpiece, I dropped a glove when boarding the bus.  But I found it again when I got off, and disaster was averted.

Live Slowly. Die Old. The trip begins…

So, I know I’ve not blogged in a while, and I’m not going to bore you with excuses.  Neither am I going to do my usual and make some political comments or talk about trains.  Instead, I am going to take a dip in to the world of the online travel diary.  Two of us have crossed the Atlantic to visit a good friend from Canada Maine, and we thought that it would be fun to keep a diary of our trip.  Stateside adventures are bound to provide some interesting material…aren’t they?

Anyway, without further ado – or any attention to video editing – let us begin…

Bus Station.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I couldn’t have put it better myself…

I found a link to a Guardian article about the recent student protests.  It’s an evocative piece, conjuring up images of a heartfelt revolution in a desperate nation.  Whatever the tragic circumstances which have forced children to fend for themselves on freezing streets, it would appear that ‘Eton’ and ‘Tory Scum’ are to blame for the problems.

Personally, I was rather taken with one of the comments below the article:

You're campaigning in effect to continue the unfair system as it is and the "anti cuts" agenda, if it were successful, condemns future generations to huge fiscal burdens. It's selfish, often ill judged and driven by the ideologically clueless left.

This whole mess has been created by one of the most damaging social experiments we have ever witnessed in this country - top down, target driven, forget the quality just look at the numbers nonsense. It has meant an industry of averageness has been developed along with a bunch of deluded students who think, wrongly, that business will fall over themselves to employ sociology grads. They won't.

Want to get angry? Where the hell have you been for the last 13 years as the government has squandered every last penny and then some? Where the hell have you been when the FE colleges, after spending millions on plans, were told the new towers of education were no longer going to be built?

Hypocrites.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arriva Strikes Again

20112010264

CrossCountry Trains’ Twitter feed recently claimed that a  “recent survey commissioned by CrossCountry shows First Class is more productive for business travellers (http://bit.ly/1stclassxc).”  The link seems to be broken (the CrossCountry website is terrible) so I don’t know how the survey was conducted, but I’m not surprised that First Class is more productive than their Standard Class.  Anything would be, frankly.

I took the above photo of Standard Class on my way home on Saturday.  I could have photographed any number of the empty seats, and the picture would have been similar.  The fact that there were free seats will come as a shock to some, but don’t get too excited because it was quite late at night.  It’s the amount of litter I want to highlight (just be thankful I spared you the pool of vomit outside one of the – closed – toilets).

Worryingly, I understand that this is not an unusual experience.  The rumour in the rail industry is that Arriva have avoided linking their name with their CrossCountry franchise because of the poor image Arriva Trains Wales has.  I understand that this poor image also stems from overcrowding, and problems with litter and one wonders why they spent the money on rebranding rather than employing a cleaner or two.

Humility?

So, Nick Clegg has asked students to “examine the fees proposals before taking to the streets,” suggesting that they “listen and look” before “marching and shouting.” (BBC News).

I have to admit that I’ve not properly examined the proposals in detail, but then I haven’t been marching and shouting, either – and Mr Clegg’s comments seem fair to me.

Meanwhile the National Union of Students have objected, urging Mr Clegg to “show a little humility."

Having seen this, however, one might be forgiven for wondering if the NUS actually know what showing humility means.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Winter Rail Timetable Fun

I am very pleased to see that my last post has provoked some discussion on Facebook, and I shall get around to responding in due course.

In the meantime, however, I need an outlet for my latest rant against the railways – and blogging is as good a way as any.

As a non-driver, the current Sunday timetable frustrates me because the hourly service from my folks’ place down the Arun Valley doesn’t connect too well with the hourly service along the coast from Barnham.  This means that a journey which would take just over an hour by car takes about two and a half by train.  On the positive side, Barnham station is one of the better places one could spend 46 minutes.  The guy in one of the two excellent cafes knows me quite well now and serves my latte just how I like it.

Anyway, there are occasions – even on a Sunday – when one can’t really spare the time for a long latte break, and the news that Southern had applied for a new Brighton to Southampton slot from December was pleasing news.  Surely this would mean an improvement to my journey time….

Well, you would have thought.  But clearly I am the only person who ever considers travelling down the Arun Valley and along towards Southampton at weekends.  That and the planners must hate me.  The new timetable is now online, and the apparent improvements mean that I can now look forward to a 54 minute wait.  At Ford, which doesn’t even have one cafe.

Dr Stark, this is your cue to wander through the office until you find the man responsible for this ‘planning’ and give him a good kicking.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Religious Tolerance

I skimmed through this BBC article this morning, and I have since been thinking a bit about the proposals for a ‘Ground Zero’ mosque.

It seems to me that to not build the mosque would be perceived as being intolerant, and I struggle to see why this is a fair conclusion. What happened to being tolerant of the feelings of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks? Since when did being tolerant of someone necessitate doing what they want?

I also think some of the comments below the article make some excellent points.

I find it rather amusing that we Americans are preached to about being tolerant when Muslims are deemed as being as pure as the wind-driven snow and completely tolerant of all other religions. Take a Bible to Saudi Arabia and see how tolerant they are.

We feel intolerant because Islam is perceived as a 'threat' - not just because of terrorism but also because the freedom that we enjoy in 'western' countries is not found in 'Islamic' countries. We do not want to get to the point where we cannot build churches, express our opinion that Islamic teaching is not correct or walk around without a veil.

The issue of Park 51 is less one of religious tolerance and more one of respect. How would this issue have been perceived if the situation were reversed?

You can read the rest of them for yourself.

Much as I respect the right of Muslims to practise their faith, tolerance works both ways.  The comment regarding tolerance of Christians in Saudi Arabia is a very fair point, and one wonders what the reaction would be if the proposals for Ground Zero included imagery of Mohammed.  My gut feel is that there would be some angry reactions, and no-one would turn round and preach ‘tolerance’ to those who were upset.

The idea that Islam is perceived as a threat is an interesting one.  To some degree I am very much in agreement, because I do not want to get to the point where one cannot express an opinion against Islamic teaching. 

I also wonder, however, whether people feel threatened in a different way, such that it is not seen as ‘the done thing’ to support those against the mosque.

Finally, I wonder how many of those in support of “religious tolerance for Muslims” actually believe in what they preach, or whether it is an opportunity to jump on a bandwagon and look good by appearing to care for those in a minority.

Discuss…

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Priorities

Another reason for not being up to speed with current affairs is that when I listened the Radio 4 Lunchtime News the other day, most of the time was taken up with concerns over a few no-balls in a cricket match.

I’m sure that the plight of some Pakistani cricketers is big news in some quarters, but probably not as big as, say, a major flood affecting the lives of thousands.  Or did I imagine that last bit?

A no-win situation

Having returned from a few days sans Internet I’m not quite up to speed with current affairs.  However, I have just read this article about William Hague.

Apparently, "Mr Hague himself now seems to understand that it was poor judgement to share a hotel room with an assistant."

In light of the furore about MPs expenses, one wonders if, having adopted a new policy of not sharing a twin room, the next BBC article will read “he now seems to understand that it was poor judgement in the recession to spend an unnecessary amount on hotel bills.”

Who would be a politician?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Rail Fare Madness

I was looking at fares today for trains between Southampton and Carmarthen.  I know that fares in this country are complicated, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything this bad before.

Looking at travel from the suburb of Swaythling, if I travel at 12.43 it will cost me £31.60, on a ‘turn up and go’ ticket.  If I travel an hour later, it will cost me £51.90, simply because the train takes a different route (even though the journey time is similar).  Waiting for the next train another hour later will save me money because the standard fare is back to £31.60 – but I can get an Advance fare for just £12.55.

Airport Parkway has more trains and so I thought I might get more choice of Advance fares.  Apparently not, however.  Despite being further up the line (with a bus fare of £2), the cheapest ticket *on the same train* to Carmarthen is not £12.55 but £61.70.

That’s an expensive walk or bus ride…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I’m in love with my car

So goes the Queen song, penned by drummer Roger Taylor.  Don’t ever say that he lacks lyrical genius.

Anyway, I’m doing a bit of research in to transport in the US, and as I ponder America’s love affair with the car, I have come across some classic quotes.

Apparently,

“the automobile is the handiest tool ever devised for the pursuit of that unholy, unwholesome, all-American trinity of sex, speed and status.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian recently reported that there are signs that the love affair is coming to an end.  This has not proven popular with one commentator, who advises

“you must NOT publish articles like this!!

Don't you realize that this could trigger the current US regime to mandate that people must buy more cars! The current (disastrous) draft healthcare legislation should give you a hint of what could come:-

"US non-car owners to face stiff fines"

"Mandatory car replacement legislation, US car owners must purchase new vehicles every 3 years or face jail!!" “

Of course, the US Government have a clear record of being influenced by The Guardian.  Maybe the way to achieve world domination is to become a left-wing British newspaper columnist…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cost of Travel (2)

Yesterday evening I went to visit a friend in Poole – and I had a lovely time doing so.

However, the return journey has given me an excuse to indulge in a railway related rant.  Maybe that’s music to your ears (I haven’t had one in a little while, after all) but I hope you’ll otherwise bear with me.

The (hourly) trains in the evening seem to stop at every house, farmyard and stable in the New Forest, so I had plenty of time to watch the world go by.  I must have somehow missed the throng of people alighting and embarking at Pokesdown (“for Boscombe”) but I was able to familiarise myself thoroughly with the list of scheduled calling points.  The bustling metropolis of Hinton Admiral was, of course, on the list, as was the large Hampshire town of Micheldever.  In fact, the train was due to stop at every station on the line…except St Denys and Swaythling.

You might be thinking that this makes no sense, but compared with the busy streets of Shawford, the Southampton suburbs pale in to insignificance.  I’m glad that SouthWest Trains considered the needs of the majority onboard the empty train and have cut unnecessary stops from the timetable.  After all, the number of stops meant that the train was due in Waterloo two hours after leaving Southampton Airport, so it’s good that they saved a minute or two.  I was more than happy to speed past my house and have a long walk back* in aid of the Greater Good.

Despite my overflowing joy, however, if you come across someone from SouthWest Trains I’d be grateful if you would force them to sit on a train which stops everywhere except at the most convenient station for them.  Such torture might be more effective than water-boarding, and if nothing else may encourage them to get as far as looking up “Customer Service” in the dictionary.

Two days ago I reported that the Transport Research Group have discovered that “taking the train might be cheaper than driving.”  Like lopping off you big toe, or buying a Daewoo Matiz, however, cheap does not necessarily mean cheerful.

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*to be fair, I could have waited 40 minutes for a connecting train.  Or pushed the boat out and reduced my wait to 30 minutes by buying a bus ticket.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Cost of Travel

Although rail travel is generally seen as being quite expensive, some research just published by the TRG (Transport Research Group) in Southampton seems to suggest that it may be cheaper than driving.

Interesting…though I shall wait until I have seen a proper copy of the published work, and understood the methodology and limitations of the study before I pass comment.

Friday, August 06, 2010

It’s an upside down world

Normally if your car was clambered on and smashed by thugs, you might consider calling the police.  What the heck does one do in this situation?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10888435

Rent-A-Thug.  Freephone 999 now!

Monday, August 02, 2010

I had the best laid plans this side of America

So, last weekend was ‘the weekend I actually went to Cambridge.’  As opposed to ‘the weekend I didn’t go to Cambridge,’ which was unfortunate but is now water under the bridge.

Whilst I was there, I had the pleasure of seeing various friends and on Saturday evening I was on a bus in to town to meet someone for a drink.  As the bus passed the end of his road I thought I would give him a call to see if I should get off the bus early and walk the remainder of the way.

“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hi!" I said, in a manner which suggested that my friend would have seen my name on his mobile and know it was me.  “I was just wondering…”

“Hello?” came the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hi!” I said again, assuming that the noise of the people on the bus had drowned me out first time.

“Who is this?”

At this point I started to become a little confused. It didn’t sound like my friend, come to think of it – I’d blamed the background noise, but now I wasn’t so sure.  My mind raced, wondering if he was with someone else and had passed the phone to them, for some reason.

It’s…er…James,”  I stammered.

Maybe my friend was putting on a funny voice, I thought.  It certainly sounded as though the person on the other end of the phone was deliberately over-pronouncing things.

Anyway, in the heat of the moment I went for the ‘someone else has answered the phone’ theory and said “can I speak to Tom, please?

I think you’ve got the wrong number,” came the response, and I heard someone else in the background. Yes, this was definitely a wind-up and that was his girlfriend giggling away.

Meanwhile I paused, slightly panicked.  If I hung up and then had to call Tom back I would have found it very embarrassing.  But it was all very convincing, and I couldn’t bring myself to say something like “very funny, Tom.”  It was like a game of chicken.  Who was going to cave first?

I did.  I broke the silence.

Maybe I have got the wrong number,” I said, slowly, carefully, uncertainly.  This was Tom’s moment to laugh, to give the game away, and to answer my question before the bus passed his stop.  But there was nothing, so I followed it up with “I’ll go then, bye.”

I hung up, and considered ringing him back. 

And then I realised that my phonebook had gone awry and I’d not called his mobile, but his landline.  The one at his old house.

Embarrassment set in, even though the person I spoke to has no idea who I am, and I swiftly took steps to delete the landline number….

 

6pm. Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge.  I have alighted from the bus and am waiting for my friend Tom.  I don’t know if I am in the right place or not, and I have just deleted all his contact details from my phone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Think of others by not paying tax

Apparently a local Toy Library won’t accept voluntary reimbursement from parents who offer to pay for lost or damaged toys.  The reasoning for this is because “some people wouldn’t be able to afford to pay.”

How ridiculous.

Mind you, thinking of those who can’t afford to pay does potentially have advantages.  I’m thinking of not paying tax, rent, and other bills because I don’t want to discriminate against those who can’t afford them.  Don’t let it be said that I’m not the caring, sharing type.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awkward Situations for JP

I’m a big fan of Danny Wallace and have very much enjoyed reading his latest book, Awkward Situations for Men.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a collection of columns in which he’s written about funny and awkward moments in his life.  I’d highly recommend it, but it has got me wondering why my writing career hasn’t developed beyond the glory days of the Columnsphere in Bath Impact.  After all, I could be Danny Wallace.  I even sort of look like him (in that we both wear what he terms ‘Media Glasses’) and my life is full of awkward moments.

I had one just recently, in fact, when I discovered the potential pitfalls of going somewhere with your brother’s girlfriend but without your brother.

As I learned at DisneyLand when I was younger, “it’s a small world after all,” and Mavis* has moved nearby for the summer.  So we now attend the same church.  A couple of weeks ago, we rocked up together and sat in the same pew, behind some friends of mine.  Conversation flowed after the service, and a dinner invite from my friends was forthcoming – which I didn’t hesitate in gratefully accepting.  So far, so good.

But then as the invite was also kindly extended to Mavis I started to realise** that perhaps my (married) friends had misread the relationship between us.  Somehow I hadn’t found it necessary to prefix the earlier introductions with “this is my brother’s girlfriend…” and I’m not even sure it would have sounded too good if I had.  But now, as I put the date in my diary, panicked thoughts were running through my head.  How was I going to let on that Mavis and I were not an item?  Would it be really awkward when my friends found out? Did they even need to find out?

It may surprise you to know that I managed to keep my mouth shut at that point;  “when in doubt, say nothing” is probably quite a good policy.  Mavis and I confirmed arrangements for our hot date and I was left pondering what would happen next.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long.  After Mavis had gone home, my friend asked, in quite a knowing tone, how I knew her.  The way he then said “Oh, she’s your brother’s girlfriend” in a much more surprised tone implied that the situation wasn’t what he expected.  There was nothing to worry about, however – the truth was out in a manner reminiscent of ripping off a plaster, and everyone knew where they stood.

A further twist was later added when Mavis’s sister was also invited.  My friends were amazing hosts, and I had a lovely evening out with my brother’s girlfriend, her sister, and a guy called Pete.  Good Times.

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*Following Danny Wallace’s example, names have been changed.  It could have been worse, I could have called her Colin.

**I nearly wrote “realise with horror…” but that may have appeared as an unfortunate slur on my brother’s taste in women, or wrongly given the impression that I am uncomfortable being seen with girls.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bingo?

Microsoft may now be forced to offer users a choice of web browser, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped them mucking around in an uncompetitive manner. 

Internet Explorer came pre-installed on my computer and I have opted to keep the 64-bit version just because it is the only 64-bit browser I currently know of.  That doesn’t mean I use it very often (Firefox 4 has won my heart) but each time I do, it has started to complain about my choice of search engine.

IE Blog 

Apparently I originally chose Bing.  Obviously I didn’t, because no-one does, and I’d rather that Microsoft would leave me alone rather than kindly resetting IE to use its own product.

Interestingly, the message also tells me that Bing can be found at www.google.com.  If Microsoft employees think that, it’s no wonder that they are proud of their search engine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vandalism

One of the costs faced by rail companies is that of cleaning graffiti from trains.  As part of my work, I had a visit to a rail depot last year, and I learned that such vandalism can be extremely costly.  It’s probably another reason why your last rail ticket cost you a lot of money.

Anyway, some artist has had the cheek to proudly post his attempts at railway vandalism on his website.  If I was Prime Minister, I’d follow Obama’s example with BP and ensure that the artist was fleeced for every last penny of the clean-up operation.  Why should the average rail traveller foot the bill? 

Unfortunately, I’m not Prime Minister, and I learned this morning that Mr Cameron has instead decided to promote said artist by donating some of his work to President Obama.  Good one, Dave.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tax is for Christmas, not just for Life

Following on from yesterday’s post, I hear that Mr Cable has said that it’s "unlikely" that a ‘Graduate Tax’ would be paid throughout a graduate's working life.

Hmmm. If that could be guaranteed then the system is slightly more appetising (in the same way that raw beef is slightly more appetising than raw chicken).  I’m not convinced, however, that the bureaucracy involved in deciding who pays what, and which Universities get what will lead to a simpler, cheaper and better system.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Graduate Tax?

Predictably, the proposal of a Graduate Tax has caused some controversy.  The idea has some good points in theory (like Communism) but the FT outlines four flaws which might be a problem in practice.

I certainly don’t like the idea that having a degree could see me paying extra tax for life.  Neither do I like the idea that this extra tax could be funding thousands of Media Studies students and their binge drinking habits. 

Forgive the flippancy in that last sentence, but I think that the Labour target of 50% of people going to University is ridiculous, and attaches a stigma to those who don’t.  I might have been able to scrape my way through a Physics degree, but I can’t do anything practical to save my life.  We’re all different.  I’d much rather see investment in useful non-academic qualifications than University places for the sake of meeting targets which sound good.

I understand that there is a need to review funding for the education system.  But I have worked hard for my qualifications, and as I look out of my window at the many truant kids on my street and think about the fact that taxes pay for their housing and their Sky TV, I can think of better ways of fixing the financial problems than ‘Graduate Taxation.’

JP talks BP

The new BBC News Page tells me this morning that BP faces an offshore drilling ban, thanks to new measures agreed by a US Congressional committee.  Although the measures do not mention BP by name, they seem to be well crafted to target it, and this has really annoyed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the Gulf oil spill is a disaster and that lessons need to be learned.  Do I doubt that BP made mistakes? No.  But neither do I doubt the fact that BP were under immense pressure to feed America’s insatiable appetite for oil, or the fact that many of the non-BP contractors also had their part to play.

If Mr Obama was a real man, he’d be finding other ways of improving the safety of all offshore drilling – and not just focussing on BP.  He’d be considering the fact that the average US household has an annual carbon footprint of more than double the European equivalent, and wondering if such greedy demand for oil should continue to be encouraged.

Thanks to Obama’s bullying arrogance, American companies are relieved of their competition, the American people can still think that $2.54 a gallon is a lot to pay at the pumps, and the ignorant among them probably think that the British are entirely responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill, Global Warming and all sorts of other nasty disasters.

Lovely stuff.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Caption Competition

Capture

This picture comes from the BBC News coverage of the Raoul Moat incident.

The caption given by the BBC is

“After Moat’s death, police praised residents of Rothbury for their resilience in dealing with an armed police presence – and the threat of a gunman on the loose – in the town.”

That’s all well and good, and it’s nice to know that the residents of Rothbury were credited for the way in which they dealt which what must have been a difficult and traumatic week.

However, in my eyes, the picture above has a slightly comic edge – aiming a gun at two ladies on a jolly in their Nissan Almera seems like overkill to me.  Notwithstanding the fact that the events of the last week have obviously been very sad, I think there is an opportunity to have a bit of fun here and suggestions for alternative captions would be most welcome.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Riff-Raff

“I tell you what. The Lords is a place of class, no doubt about that”  [Lord Prescott]

I think, what he meant to say was “The Lords was a place of class.”

Shame that he’s gone and ruined it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Re-lighting old fires

So, Jeffrey John is potentially going to become Bishop of Southwark.  The news saddens me - but before I am accused of being homophobic, let me say that Dr John’s sexuality is not the real reason I am upset.  In fact, I have three big concerns about this latest news.

1) Much is being made about David Cameron being in favour of Dr John’s appointment, with reports suggesting that “it will be good for the image of the Conservative Party.”  As far as I know, our Prime Minister is not a church-goer, but even if he was, it doesn’t seem right that he is able to choose a church leader for political gain.  Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy contains some good points about choosing a church leader, and someone who “improves the image of the Prime Minister” is not one of them.

2) Some time ago, I was privileged to be in a group invited by Dr John to drinks at his house in St Albans.  I’d been looking forward to meeting him, and was determined to try and put my prejudices aside.  He had been described to me as a “great candidate for a Bishop” and someone who was “humble and people-orientated.”  Perhaps he was having an off-day, but when I started a conversation by complementing his house the rather grumpy response was “I’d rather live in a Bishop’s house” and as he bumbled through some small talk which included unnecessary sneers about Bath Abbey being “Evangelical” he didn’t endear himself to me.

Of course, one must accept that he’d had a tough time, and that it’s natural to feel bitter.  But I’m afraid that I saw a man who is a career churchman, with his own agenda.

3) The liberal wing of the church has the Henry Ford attitude to tolerance.  We can have any view we like, apparently, so long as it’s theirs.  It seems that for some people, their idea of holding together the Anglican Communion involves being prepared to welcome others back with open arms once they have changed their mind.

The issue of homosexuality and church leadership is a divisive one, but whatever side of the fence you are on, it doesn’t seem right that the liberal agenda is being pushed through in spite of clear agreements not to ordain gay bishops for the time being.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Loose grammar costs lives

I have just looked at the photograph in the last post I published and realised that there is an apostrophe.  Thus, it is probably only one farmer who is fearful of Chinese lanterns. 

But, as I have commented here before, the world is increasingly full of people who don’t use apostrophes appropriately.  Somehow many Tom’s, Dick’s and Harry’s still get a C or above for their English Language GCSE.  This sad fact of life means that I cannot be certain that the journalist was only referring to one farmer. 

I’m not worried enough to buy a copy of the paper just to put my mind at rest though.  So there.

3 things I have learned today

They say you learn something new every day, and I’m pleased to announce that after spending a very pleasant morning in Billingshurst I have learned almost enough for a whole week.

1) Black PVC insulation tape is much, much cheaper than you fear it might be.  If you were me, that is.

2) Billingshurst has a new Italian Delicatessen-cum-coffee shop. ‘La Dolce Salata,’ I believe it is called, and if you are ever opposite Budgens you should pop in.  I had a very pleasant chat with the owner whilst he let me sample a range of cheeses and made me a sandwich for my train journey.

3) Some farmers have some fears about Chinese lanterns.  I didn’t actually see the paper, and cannot comment further.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Britain News Page standards slip

The other day I commented on the wording of one of the headlines on the front page of the BBC News Page.  Today I have spotted another one I’d like to pass comment on.

If you navigate to this article, you will see that the headline - “Naoto Kan becomes Japan's new prime minister” – is fine.  Nothing sensational, but at least it’s grammatically correct.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the link to the article from the main page, which reads “New Japan PM pledges fresh start.”

It’s a subtle thing, but an important one nonetheless.  Maybe I’m showing my age, but I’m a stickler for correct grammar.

If your unable to see what myself is on about, don’t worry about it. Just don’t pretend that your A Grade English Language GCSE is worth anything.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Feeling like a Twit

Today I realised the first hand dangers of idle Tweets.  It felt like speaking to the whole world without thinking, and then not being there in person to deal with the aftermath.

No-one actually commented on my Facebook status, but I do apologise if you saw it and deemed it tasteless.

If you’re wondering what I am on about, I was bumbling along this morning, iTunes was open and Eric Clapton was singing.  “I Shot the Sheriff” was the tune, and as I enjoyed the sound and envisaged busting a few moves I tweeted.  JP “shot the sheriff, but did not shoot the deputy” was the gist.

Unfortunately, although iTunes was open, the BBC News page was not.  I have since learned of the awful events in Cumbria today, but it was sometime before I logged in to Facebook and realised what I’d gone and done.

It was, of course, a genuine mistake.  I wasn’t to know.  But it has got me thinking about how badly wrong innocent tweets can go.  Do I continue to tweet about my life?  Does anyone care, anyway?  Can I live without an outlet for my thoughts?

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with those in Cumbria, and my sincere apologies are extended to those of you who thought I was being more tastless than usual.

Citizen Science Saves Birds

So read the BBC Headline for this article.  It’s as if choosing a headline is done by pulling words out of a hat.

Friday, May 21, 2010

‘Intimidation’

To quote from the latest BBC report on the BA strike,

“Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, has accused BA's management of being in an "intimidating" way.

"There is an agreement on the table," he said.

"It is not particularly brilliant but it could be workable - although it needs selling and crew need persuading to accept it.

"We would try to do that, but it is very difficult when an atmosphere of intimidation and fear persists."”

Let’s see whether Mr Simpson puts his money where his mouth is this time, rather than doing the opposite and urging crews to reject the deal.  Given that one of my biggest complaints is Unite’s dishonesty, I’m not holding my breath.

“A tool for every job”

The title of this post comes from the slogan I saw recently on an HSS Tool Hire van.  But it suits Unite the Union quite well also.

Unsurprisingly, people are choosing not to fly BA at the moment, on the basis of the threat of industrial action.  Clearly Unite the Union are doing the best they can to stem BA’s losses and keep their jobs.

It’s worth watching Willie Walsh, and, before you accuse me of being a biased reporter, Tony Woodley

Linking to Mr Woodley’s side of the story, however, does not stop me from having the opinion that he is the biggest spanner in the toolbox.  How can he claim that he is “disappointed that the strikes will go ahead” and complain that “BA withdrew the deal” when it was he who urged crew to reject it?

You can bleat all you like about the importance of workers’ rights, and the right to strike, but Unite’s lies and blatant power-tripping does no-one any favours.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pro Abortion Advertising…

…is about to start happening in the UK, apparently.

I’ll keep it short and sweet because I still have revision to do, but what is wrong with people such that abortion has become little more than a “sexual health decision” and values “empowering” self-centred women above human life?

Recently I’ve seen suggestions that fundamental human rights include “going on strike” and Internet Access.  What about the right to life in the first place?

One of the things I liked about David Cameron’s first speech, was the mention of ‘responsibility’.  It’s about time that people got to grips with that concept.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

JP in ‘pro Guardian’ shock

I hope you’re sitting down for this.  Perhaps you’d even like to prepare yourself by taking a few deep breaths. 

I’d like to recommend that you read this article from The Guardian.  There.  I’ve said it.

Although my feelings about said newspaper are generally well documented, I have to say that George Monbiot has written a particularly good article about the environmental impact of rail travel.  As you may know, this will be my area of research once I’ve got some exams out of the way, and it looks like there could be a few surprises and some tough decisions to be made.

Flight of The Conchords

Last night I avoided the Inner City Pressure and went to Wembley Arena. It was awesome.

I didn’t meet a girl called Jenny, but I did pick up some tips for wooing a lady. All I need now is a dodgy haircut, some tights, and a massive horse.

You may breathe a sigh of relief that the need to work will cut my ramblings short at this point.  But if you still crave entertainment, point your browser to YouTube and search for Flight of The Conchords. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Social Experimentation

Since signing my first mobile phone contract, “back in the day”, I have been able to get my email on my telephone.  How I look back on those days of Dial-Up WAP fondly.

However, as noted by Baz Luhrmann, prices will rise, politicians will philander, and I too, will get old.

My phone contract is more expensive than it used to be, and although I swear by Google Maps, I also swear at the procrastination caused by obsessively and needlessly checking my email every 2 seconds.  At a time when exams are looming, this is Not Good (and neither, probably, is blogging, but I’ll cross that bridge in a minute).  When I couldn’t get personal email at work, and I spent a lot of time on the train, mobile internet proved to be very useful – but those days are gone, my friend.

So, this morning I rang Vodafone.  At midnight tonight, my ‘Data Bundle’ will expire.  Will it be for the greater good?  Or will I just turn in to a pumpkin?

Union Politics

It would seem that the members of the Unite Union are still unhappy with BA.  I wonder if they were bullied in to voting that way?

Anyway, in case you are still naive enough to think that this is genuinely about some unhappy workers, allow me to point out a couple of things.

1) Unite the Union have continued to bankroll the Labour Party, and their HQ near Heathrow was plastered in ‘Vote Labour’ signs prior to the election.

2) There were few announcements prior to the election, and no decisive action has yet been taken.  Is this a reflection of the fact that the election result itself could be viewed as “indecisive”?

Ironically, it would seem that if you want to avoid a strike in the short term, you’d be best campaigning for Labour to remain in power.  Not that it would be good for the long term future of the airline, let alone the country.

In my mind, it is clear that the bosses at Unite are on nothing less than a politically motivated power trip.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Blue Lagoon

By looking through some of the stats for this blog, I have discovered that if you do a Google Search for “Cyprus Blue Lagoon” then the 5th result (out of 88,500) takes you to an old and dusty part of the blogosphere, where I informed readers that I saw some people having sex in said waters.

I’m not sure whether I should be proud of that or not.  Answers on a postcard, please.

Chasing cars

In an idle moment earlier, it occurred to me that if someone asked me what I look for in a girl, then the car she drives would be a relatively important factor.  They say that you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their wheels, and in my experience it tends to hold true.

So now you know.

Alfa Romeos, Policy & Pornography

Perhaps surprisingly, I am definitely not averse to a Liberal Conservative coalition – I think that there could be a lot of positives.  Of course, how it is done is crucial, and I am reminded of the Alfa Romeo Arna, a car which could have exhibited the strengths of Italian styling and Japanese build, but ended up being the opposite.

I’ve already noted that I do not agree with all of the Conservative policies, but equally I am still very wary of some of what the Lib Dems stand for.  This was brought to my attention earlier today, and all I’ll say is that I’m even more glad that the cross on my ballot paper did not go in their direction.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Election Time

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So, polling day is finally upon us.  This will come as a relief to many, if only because people like me will have to find something else to blog about in a few days’ time.

I believe that it is my duty to vote, and will be doing so later.  I don’t think some people appreciate the freedom we have in this country, and would encourage you all to flex your democratic muscles.  After all, as it’s been put many times “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain either.”

The picture comes from the noticeboard outside my church.  I quite like it, and think that the message is good.

Of course, it’s been pointed out that this may be a form of subliminal advertising – either for the Conservatives (from Dave Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism” days) or for Labour (show mercy by not giving them a kicking).

I shall now put on my best “Big Brother” Geordie accent:

Who wins? You decide.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sending smoke signals

I don’t know how to send smoke signals, especially not from where I am sat at the moment, but if I could you would see blue wisps floating up in to the atmosphere.

To many of you, this may be news akin to announcing that the Pope is a Catholic, but deciding who to vote for this time around has not been easy.  Still, if I don’t have another bout of deliberation in the morning, and manage to read the ballot paper correctly, it is likely that Caroline Nokes can count on my vote.

I know that announcing one’s political allegiance can be something of a taboo, but we shall pretend that normal rules do not apply in the Blogosphere.  As promised in my earlier post, I’d like to offer some positive reasons for the choice I’ve made.  Looking good on TV is, surprisingly I know, not one of them.

So, three reasons why I’m inclined to vote Conservative:

1) Caroline Nokes has pledged support for the Westminster 2010 declaration (and is the only main candidate in my constituency to do so).  As a Christian, this is of real importance to me.  If you haven’t already taken a gander at the website, I suggest you do.  There’s even the opportunity to see which candidates will uphold it.

2) In terms of policies, I would align myself more with the Conservative party than anyone else.  This is a point proven by my results on the Telegraph's "How Should I Vote" page.  Admittedly, I do not agree with everything which they have to say – including their opposition to the Heathrow 3rd Runway and their crazy ‘set up your own school’ gimmick to name but two examples.  However, there is lots which I do like.  Cutting benefits for those who refuse jobs? Bring it on. Not taxing pensions or raising National Insurance (as other parties would)? Good move.

3) I don’t want a hung parliament, or another term with Gordon Brown as PM.  I’ve surprised myself in coming to this conclusion given that I’d like to see something different, and I’d be interested to see Labour putting their money where their mouth is rather than allowing the Conservatives to take the flak for their mess.

However, as I’ve outlined a lot recently, Nick Clegg’s “real change” spiel is more hot air than Iceland can produce in a month.  The evidence on the ground is not indicative of walking the walk, and if a hung parliament produces anything different it is unlikely to be positive.  Indeed, the growing risks of a hung parliament include some serious ramifications for the UK’s economic position, and no clear leadership at a time when we need it most.  Some even predict “even less transparency as parties seek to make decisions behind closed doors.”

So, the positive reasoning for my third point is that even if I disagree to some extent with the chosen direction, I feel that this country needs clear guidance and the ability for government to take hard and potentially unpopular decisions.  Some may resent two party politics, but now is not the time for electoral reform.  Hence my reason for backing the Conservative party this time around.

 

Bring on tomorrow…

If you can’t beat them, join them

I have positive reasons for placing my ballot cross where I intend to place it – and if you’re intrigued then a return visit later to this corner of the Blogosphere may well pay off.

In the meantime, I also have some very negative reasons for not placing my ballot cross next to the Lib Dem candidate.  I know that this may come across as hypocritical (especially since I’ve generally been a critic of negative campaigning).  However I am fed up with the Lib Dem promotions – which include adverts on Facebook encouraging people to “vote tactically to keep the Conservatives out” – that I feel the need to let off steam here and highlight the other side to the story.

I have already written here about the fact that the Lib Dem campaign in my constituency shows no evidence of the “real change” Nick Clegg has been spinning out to the TV cameras.  I had suspected that this constituency was no different to some of the others (after all, the Lib Dems were always fairly negative where I grew up) and my suspicions were confirmed in an email I received yesterday from someone in a Somerset constituency.

He wishes to point out, as I have done, that the Lib Dems are not all as they seem, and I quote:

“In our constituency, there are a number of Lib Dem activists stealing or vandalising Conservative placards which are in people’s gardens.  This is illegal, but is happening in Tory-Lib Dem marginal seats across the country, and in a number of areas, activists have been arrested.”

“In our constituency, the Conservatives agreed with the Liberal Democrats a number of dates for hustings (events where all the candidates answer questions from the public) in advance of the election campaign…However, the Liberal Democrats decided during the election campaign itself that they would give 2 – 3 days notice before holding another hustings event (specifically to discuss climate change), which the Conservatives could not attend because they had prior arrangements already lined up.  Now the Liberal Democrats are telling voters in our area that the Conservatives do not care about the environment.  This is a circulation of a dishonest fabrication.”

“Please do not believe Nick Clegg when he says he is just like you and me.  He says he never abused his parliamentary expenses, but he made a £300,000 profit on the taxpayer-funded house he owned as a Member of the European Parliament.  He accepted £3.5m from non-domiciled individuals for the Lib Dem treasury, despite criticising the Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft.  (I am obviously not condoning this behaviour, I am just trying to point out that Nick Clegg is not as squeaky clean as he would like us to think he was.)  He also comes from a wealthier background than David Cameron.  He is a career politician.”

Simon Cowell put it quite nicely when he announced his support for The Conservatives:

''We are not talent show judges picking pretty-sounding contestants now. The future government of our country is so much more important than that.''

Wise words indeed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tolerance?

Fairness and tolerance go together, so I thought I’d follow up my last point with a comment about tolerance.

Dictionary.com defines tolerance as follows:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.

Crucially, you will note the phrase “whose opinions…differ from one’s own.

Sadly, my experience of ‘tolerant’ people is all too often that of someone who allows other opinions “so long as they are the same as one’s own.”

Make sure you know what sort of tolerance you are really voting for on Thursday.

All’s fair in love and war…

Fairness.  It’s a lovely word, isn’t it?  Those of you who have been following the election campaigns have probably heard it a few times recently.  Maybe you’re even getting quite excited about it.

But I wonder what sort of “fairness” is really on offer.  Allow me to pose a few provocative questions:

- Is it fair to complain about “obscene” bank bonuses whilst turning a blind eye to the equally obscene salaries paid to footballers and playboy racing drivers?

- Is it fair to prevent someone speaking openly about their Christian beliefs?

- Is it fair to tax the retirement savings of those who’ve been working hard and striving to save?

- Is it fair that the Scots and the French pay no tuition fees in Scotland, but the English do?

I could go on (and at some point, I probably will).  But for now, I hope I’ve provided a bit of food for thought / stimulus for discussion – especially if you’ve been glued to the TV and generally going all gooey when “fairness” is mentioned.

They say a picture paints a thousand words…

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…and this photograph certainly says a lot about the last couple of years of my life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Same Old Song and Dance

…is the title of the Aerosmith classic which has just been served up to me by iTunes.  It seems quite appropriate for the title of this post.

It may surprise you to know that I am not David Cameron’s biggest fan, and despite the nice blue you see in this corner of the Blogosphere I remain an undecided voter.   You see, I am also sceptical about the Conservative’s campaign for change.  Cameron seems as full of silly gimmicks as Mr Blair and Mr Brown, and look at the mess that’s got us in to.  What I really want is someone who honestly tells it how it is, has the guts to make difficult decisions (which may be unpopular in the short term) and can bring about real change.

What I really want, then, I hear you say, is Nick Clegg.  Someone who claims to want real change.  Someone who is clearly trustworthy and honest.

Really?  It’s alright, there’s no need to sit down with a strong drink – I’m not about to come out of the Lib Dem closet.  The fact of the matter is that the Lib Dems are more likely to end up alongside the BNP on JP’s decisive list of people not to vote for.

But why? Firstly, there’s the issue of policy.  Like all parties, they have some good ideas. Like all parties they have some ideas I disagree with – and the latter outweighs the former.

Secondly, if I’m going to disagree with someone, I don’t mind as much if I can actually trust them.

However, when I look at the local election leaflets, I see no evidence of “real change” or “trustworthiness.”   For example, look at this little snippet (from http://www.thestraightchoice.org/full.php?q=1612#l3814): 

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“Labour Can’t Win Here” is a lie, for a start.  Obviously, it’s extremely unlikely that they will, but until polling commences it’s very much a level playing field.  Do we really want an MP who plays on the ignorance and stupidity of some of the electorate to win votes?

Looking closely, you might be able to read that “this time the result could be even closer” and “more and more people are switching to back [Lib Dem] Sandra Gidley.”

Do we really want someone with logic like that to run the country?

One of the first Lib Dem leaflets which came through the door spent most of the time haranguing either the Labour Government or “the ruling Conservatives.”  By “ruling Conservatives,” they evidently mean the council, because Sandra Gidley is the incumbent MP.  If she’s worth voting for she should be able to speak about her own record without blaming everyone else.

Things have, admittedly, improved in the latest leaflet, but she still takes a cheap shot by noting that the “Conservative candidate has no record of effective action.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely surprised given that she’s not been an MP before – and it doesn’t mean that she would be ineffective if elected.

Anyway, all political parties do it, I hear you say.  It’s true – I can’t single out the Lib Dem literature as the only example of this behaviour.  But it’s because it’s true that you should not be conned in to joining Nick Clegg’s shiny bandwagon.

Labservative for 65 years? Maybe.  But where’s the evidence that the Lib Dems will offer real change from that status quo?  Your future may be orange, but it’s not necessarily that bright.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why rail travel is expensive

In theory, I like the idea of having a ‘Station Guide’ on National Rail Enquiries, to help plan your journey.  As a concept, I can’t fault it.

In reality, though, do we really need the detail of three possible routes between the Car Park and Platform 2 at even the smallest local station?  Do we really need to be given explicit guidelines to use either the ramp or the steps, and do we care that one option is 5m longer than the other?  Do we really need to be told to bear right through the entrance after being told to head towards it?

If people are paid to take measurements, photographs and to come up with that sort of detail it’s no wonder that fares are on the rise.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tory Banter

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(from http://www.mydavidcameron.com/posters4/scottish1).

Given the debate on my last post, I thought I’d show this.  I quite like mydavidcameron.com – probably more so than I like the man himself – but I’ll elaborate on that another time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SNP should mind their own business

As an English resident, I don’t generally bother with Alex Salmond’s drivel, but I have picked up on their desire to have a “strong voice in Westminster.”

This strikes me as trying to have someone else’s cake, and eating it.  I understand the SNP to be pro-Scottish independence, which means that they think that they can live without support from the rest of the UK.  The logical trade-off of this is that they should have no right to interfere in our business.

No-one is looking at it from the other point of view and saying that if Scotland is independent we should have English representatives.  Which is perhaps fair enough, because if you continued along this line of logic we’d all be complaining that there are no English representatives in the French parliament either. 

Just because we’re part of a wider group of nations (be that the UK, or Europe as a whole) whose policies may impact our own doesn’t mean we have a right to get involved ourselves.

Central Westminster Government for the whole of the UK, or true independence for the constituent nations?  You pays your money, you makes your choice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

JP would not end “press bias” in the UK

I see that some people are signing up to a Facebook group about “press bias” in the UK.

Apparently, “the daily newspapers "The Daily Mail" and "The Sun" during this election debate have been completely pro conservative and pushing for votes for David Cameron.”

Are we meant to be surprised by this?  Did anyone set up a similar group when The Sun announced it was supporting Labour last time around?*

Surely a better way of wasting time alleviating feelings against “pro Conservative press bias” is to buy a copy of The Guardian.

 

*It has to be said that I thought that this particular announcement was a stroke of genius.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Union Express

I was intrigued by this BBC article about the train drivers’ union ASLEF putting in a bid for the East Coast Franchise.  My attention was particularly captured by the fact that ASLEF want “to show how services could be improved without spending more money.”

To improve services, I would have thought that one might want more staff.  To do so without spending more money either means paying everyone less, or making existing staff work longer hours without a pay increase.  Isn’t that the sort of capitalist behaviour ASLEF would normally strike over? Furthermore, where is Bob Crowe? The thought of “not spending any money” normally has him kicking off about ‘safety’ issues and the like.

Friendly Neighbourhood Signs

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Apparently I live in an area recently branded as “of social and environmental concern.”  I’ve even been to a couple of residents’ meetings.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

JP Observes – Part Yellow Van Man

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I don’t know about you, but if I went to a breaker’s yard in search of a door for my van, I’d expect to find it easier to obtain a white one than one in any other colour.

Some poor soul is probably driving a yellow van with a mismatching door, because yellow ones are ‘like hen’s teeth.’

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcano related banter

It seems that there is nothing quite like a volcano for sparking memorable quotes.  In light of today’s ash cloud, many media sources are reminiscing about BA Captain Eric Moody’s famous announcement when the flight encountered volcanic ash in 1982:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

However, my favourite quote of the day is to be found in The Times, who cite Hjordis Gudmondsdottir, a spokesperson for Iceland's air traffic authority:

"The ash is going out to the ocean and to Europe so our airports aren't really affected. It's almost funny, except it isn't, obviously."

Monday, April 12, 2010

JP might vote for…Stephen Crabb

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I saw a good example of a positive election poster this morning. 

“Working for Pembrokeshire” gives a good local focus, and it bucks a trend by not implying anything negative about the other candidates.  Stephen Crabb is incumbent MP in the area and his choice of slogan effectively says “vote for me on my current record.”  Obviously if you think he’s done a rubbish job then you might not be inclined to try and re-elect him, but at least it’s encouraging you to judge him on his merits alone, rather than someone else’s lack thereof.

This is in contrast to the majority of Conservative posters.  The “Vote for Change” slogan sounds good, but it’s a bit generic.  Will there be a change?  What will that change be?  At the end of the day, it’s a slogan based on being fed up with Labour rather than offering anything specifically new.  We all have good reason to be fed up with Labour, and so I don’t need to be encouraged to vote for change – I’d just like to know what that change will be.

Still, congratulations to Stephen Crabb for offering the most positive signs I have seen so far in the 2010 election.  If I was registered to vote in Pembrokeshire he’d be heading in the right direction to secure JP’s cross on the ballot paper.

Friday, April 09, 2010

I don’t like…

I agree with Alan Sugar in this – as I’m sure most people do.  Which begs the question as to how any of our politicians achieve a single vote.

Still, much as I’d like to follow Alan Sugar’s suggestion and tell them all to p*** off, I believe that I have a duty to vote on May 6th.

How I will vote still remains to be seen, and my decision is not currently helped by the fact that most of the election coverage seems to involve the parties slandering one another.  Is it too much to ask to want someone with the guts to stand up for their convictions and offer positive reasons to vote for them rather than reasons not to vote for anyone else?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You know you’re old when…

…you find it hard to get your head around Jarvis Cocker being described as a ‘veteran’ musician.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Kiwi Beer and Jesus.

At a time when my mother found mince pies, but not hot cross buns in her local Sainsbury’s, and Jonathan Ross is tweeting about “baby” Jesus, showing a Christmas billboard suddenly makes a great deal of sense.

TUI Beer Advert 

Millions of people around the world are currently preparing to celebrate Easter, and Jesus’ resurrection.  If you’re not one of them, have you decided on another explanation for the known historical events surrounding Jesus’ death, or have you just never bothered to think about it properly?

Will you think about Jesus for yourself?  Or will you say “yeah right,” on the basis that you think you know it all anyway?

More Union Madness

If you are a Blogosphere Veteran, you may be beginning to worry that my regular rambles about trains have been replaced by a penchant for trade union bashing.

I do apologise for this inconvenience, but as everyone is attempting to strike, I have a lot to say on the matter.  Besides, when it’s as justified as it is at the moment, it’s more fun than ever to poke fun at the unions.

We learned this week that yet another trade union has made fools of its members by rigging a strike ballot. The RMT have had to call off the rail strike because the ballot included phantom employees.

According to the BBC, our friend Bob Crowe justifies this as follows:

"There's 1,700 workplaces and over 18,000 workers that work on the Network Rail sites, and we have to at any given moment in time before we ballot, name every single grade and every work location.

"By the time you finish the audit it's like the Forth Bridge - you start again because someone else has been promoted, someone else has been sacked, someone dies and so on. It's a moving feast"

Reading The Times, I learned that some of the signal boxes included in the ballot have been closed for some time.  Apparently, Chalford Signal Box was last in use in 1964.  Mr Crowe, if you cannot keep abreast of developments which happened 46 years ago you should be sacked for gross incompetence.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday…

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

There was a written notice above him, which read:

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

[Taken from Luke's Gospel (NIV)].

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Labour. New Strikes.

So said the Conservative election posters in 1997. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon now, with Tube workers being the latest to hold a ballot.

Could it be that Dave Cameron was right when he said that the Trade Unions have scented weakness in the government? The cynic in me says that if this latest threat is actually a genuine show of concern for the 800 potential job losses, then the whole country would have been on strike from the beginning of the recession.

Meanwhile, I have another Unite link for you. I wouldn’t want you to think that it is just Len McCluskey who is deluded. In this article, Tony Woodley is emotively appealing to staff to gain the respect from [their] employer by supporting this strike.

Maybe I’ve missed something, but as Willie Walsh stands against the “unjustified Industrial Action” and vows to withold their travel perks, I don’t see much evidence of respect for the strikers.

Of course, if you should be foolish enough to be taken in by the articles on the Unite website, may I remind you that more balanced information is available.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

JP goes on Strikewatch

Being someone who likes to keep their finger on some sort of pulse, I decided to use Twitter to see what people are really saying about the British Airways strike. If you’re interested, I searched for #bastrike. Is this what one might term a ‘trending topic?’

Of course, there’s not much point in blogging if all I do is make out that I’m hip enough to use Twitter. Any fool can do that, but only one fool can give my opinion.

I was pleased to see evidence that a lot of passengers have been unaffected by the strike, which does imply that there is some truth in what BA have been saying about their contingency plans working.

Unite, on the other hand, like to paint a rather different picture, and despite my dislike of them I am going to give them some air time and link to one of their articles. Not because all is necessarily fair in love and war but because I found one of their statements particularly amusing.

Apparently, “Unite believes BA is grounding its own flights so it can use pilots as cabin crew on other BA flights.”

The implication here is that if it weren’t for an apparent lack of pilots, the flights would be good to go. Which would either mean that there are cabin crew ready and willing but unable to fly, or that BA have found a way of flying without crew.

Congratulations, Mr McCluskey, on reaching new levels of delusion. Is anyone else scared by the fact that idiots like this are funding the government?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tackling Climate Change in Eastleigh

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…by reducing the use of raw materials through efficient use of signs which don’t repeat unnecessary words.

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…by reducing the number of cars on the road.

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…by ensuring that the footpath down to the Parkway Railway station makes pedestrian access easy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Middle Class in a Bottle

…is how someone described the bottle of sparkling white grape and apricot juice I served with dinner yesterday.  No points for guessing where I bought it.  But it was very nice, it had to be said.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

BA: The truth is out there

There’s no point my returning to the Blogosphere if I don’t express an opinion on something topical or controversial, so let’s get down to business.

Veteran readers may not be surprised by my admission that I am not a huge fan of trade unions, and Unite’s recent performance has done nothing to endear me.

I recall the BBC’s Nick Robinson making a comment at Christmas that the real issue at stake is a political one and it all comes down to power.  It might be easy to disagree with him if Unite were running an honest campaign about the “plight” of the cabin crew, but all I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks are some Communists and an American gangster making increasingly deluded statements.

If this post is to be believed, there is very little truth in the Unite campaign.  Perhaps that’s because in comparison with everyone else the cabin crew have nothing to complain about.

Guess who’s back?

*cough*

Like much of the Blogosphere, this particular corner of it has gathered much dust recently.

You don’t want to hear excuses, and I don’t want to concoct them, so let’s leave it at that and gloss over my absence.  Suffice to say that I had promised myself that I would start blogging again once I got my new computer, and I now have said new computer.  Shiny.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, my first impressions of Windows 7 are very positive.  That’s probably not the most profound thing I could have said as I burst back in, but it’s true nonetheless.