Those Lazy Hazy Crazy days of Summer

IMGP3687English weather is always unpredictable and as the saying goes, “Two days of sunshine followed by a thunderstorm”. Well, so far this Summer, that adage is proving to. be reasonably accurate.

In the UK, August has traditionally been the main holiday period as it is the month when the best outdoor weather tends to come in more prolonged sunny periods. Whether people travel abroad or holiday remain in the UK on a Staycation as it has come to be known, August is the month which families look forward too a well earned break. Schools also have their extended holidays during this time and the start of the month frequently sees weekend traffic jams as the nation moves en-masse  to their chosen holiday destinations.

Now that I am retired, my wife and I are fortunately no longer restricted to the more popular holiday periods, but that does not stop us making good use of fine weather to take trips out on a visit or a picnic. The South-West of England where we live has always been a popular destination for holiday makers, particularly with its many fine seaside resorts, beaches and spectacular scenery. It is still possible however to find less crowded and peaceful locations and out trip this week to Stonebarrow Hill on the Dorset Coast is one of them.

IMGP3711Stonebarrow Hill is a 148 metre high plateau sandwiched between the small coastal town of Charmouth and the well known Golden Cap which is the highest hill in the spectacular Lyme Bay. The land is owned by the National Trust and forms part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast and the Coastal Path. Parking and access are free but if not travelling on foot, it does require motoring up a very steep and narrow lane that twists and turns and which is one vehicle width only. This means some give and take negotiation is necessary in the event of encountering on coming traffic.

The plateau is traversed along a unmade road but with ample parking for cars, and the sides slope down steeply to the sea far below.. The views are breath-taking and it is possible to see the entire sweep of Lyme Bay on a clear day.

The video below is a 360° panorama of just one part of Stonebarrow Hill.

Brexit in a Nutshell

A excellent animated video showing in a nutshell the benefits of leaving the EU. It also shows why daily scare stories being circulated by those who want the UK to stay in the EU are nonsense.

More importantly the video shows the dangers of what will eventually happen if the UK remains in the EU.

In case anyone is in any doubt, I am fully committed to leaving the EU. What was originally a glorified street market, (the EEC), is now almost a Super-State and eventually it can only seek Super-State powers.

Europe is made up of democratic countries, yet not one European citizen with the exception of Ireland has been allowed to vote if they wanted the EU in the first place. Neither is any citizen of all these democratic European countries permitted to vote for the European Commissioners that set laws and directives. This also means they cannot be voted out of office. The same applies to the EU President and other top EU positions.

Leaving the EU would be no bed of roses but the prospect of what the future holds if the UK remains terrifies me.

It does seem likely to me that if the UK had never been a member of the EU and instead of a Brexit Referendum, the UK was being asked if we would want to join the EU, it is more than likely the answer would be an overwhelming no.

 

Nature knows when it is Summer

IMGP3459We have folklore, meteorological calendars and goodness knows what else to tell when the official start of Summer is. Fortunately Mother Nature does not read these things and tells us in her own way when Summer has arrived.

Last week was one such time. Hedgerows already green with growing grass suddenly showed signs of seasonal activity when the tiny white buds of the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) started to appear. Within days this plant unfolds a myriad of tiny and delicate, but perfectly formed petals. It also puts on a spurt of accelerated growth as stems suddenly grow inches thrusting its blossom skywards to attract pollenating bees. Cow Parsley suddenly appears in such profusion it looks like the hedgerows have been given a dusting of snow.

IMGP3461Leaves on trees that up until now have been gently swelling green buds all seem to burst open on the same day covering the countryside in a swathe of blinding green brilliance that radiates its colour. The lofty boughs of the trees so prominent in winter, are suddenly shrouded from view once more until the autumn.

Grass lawns put on a additional spurt of growth too as ants attempt to build their secretive nests hidden by the lofty green blades.

The whole feel of the arrival of Summer is to create an urge to get out and about even more, particularly into the countryside. Already we are planning simple outdoor trips like picnics in remote grassy fields where one can while away the time not doing nothing, but feeling one with nature.

Yes let’s all give out a almighty cheer for Yes Summer at long last is finally here.

IMGP3463

The not so humble push-button.

Push ButtonI was recently thinking about my dear old paternal grandmother who was born in 1881 and such a kindly soul. Every time she crosses my mind I cannot but help think about the wondrous things that were invented during her lifetime. My grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 92, quite long lived for her generation and when she was born, the horse and cart still reigned supreme. Her father, my great grandfather, was a farrier by trade so my Gran would have been very familiar with the ways of horses.

When Gran was born, apart from the horse and the horse drawn omnibus, the only other viable forms of transport were the railway which was still in a state of infant expansion and barges via the UK’s extensive river and canal system. What certainly did not exist in the UK at that time was the motor car, electric trams, motorised omnibuses or the aeroplane. All of these my Gran would have seen come into being, and even some passing into history like the electric tram. On a more domestic front, electric lighting,  the radio, and later television were to later enter her life.

I was born just after the end of World War 2, one of the original baby boomers and I too was trying to think what came into greater prominence during my life. All the things I have already mentioned existed by the time I was born albeit many of them were still a bit basic. Radio and television originally powered by valves has since blossomed into a flourishing international electronics industry.Although considered indispensible today, the electronic computer had already been invent by Alan Turin and Tommy Flowers in secrecy during WW2 for the purpose of decrypting coded messages generated by the German Enigma machine.

Then it occurred to me that although not new, as a young boy the humble push button was considered by most children at that time to be somewhat futuristic and space age. Most electrical equipment like lighting was either operated by a simple switch or a knob that required turning. Push buttons now so common they are almost hidden in plain sight  and which do not give rise to a seconds thought, were still comparatively rare just after the war.

My father would occasionally take me to the Science Museum in London and my eyes would always light up in the Children’s Gallery which was situated in the basement with its numerous models and demonstrations that could all be operated at the push of a button. I could hardly wait with childish delight to move onto the next display with yet another button to push. The only problem was the buttons were of the small brass pin type that were both difficult and sometimes painful for small fingers to push.

When I was a junior school, my schoolmates and I would go to a nearby housing estate after classes to play a game of Tag which involved everyone trying to escape a “chaser” and if touched, it was your turn to chase the others. This housing estate had lifts, (elevators), as well as long corridors and stairs. The lifts which could be called at the touch of a button, were still comparatively rare in most working class areas. The presence of the lifts added a whole new dimension to the game. Most of the games came to an end when residents came out to complain about the noise at which time we would move on to the next apartment block on the estate.

So next time you have occasion to press a humble push-button, perhaps you might remember there was a time when it was not so humble at all.

April 2016

Stonebarrow

Spring has sprung and the grass has ‘riz’, I wonder where the fairies is?, as my dear old mother used to say.

Well Spring is certainly now here, and the daffodils brought on a month early by a mild winter are still in bloom. I like daffodils and after a drab winter even if it was mild, they do add a welcoming touch of colourful freshness to the environment. The fields that abut our home are also full of new born lambs at the moment. It is amazing to watch how such creatures so frail at birth, have found their legs within minutes as they first suckle from their mothers. It only takes about two weeks for these new born lambs to “gang up” together with other lambs and go chasing around the fields in groups. The moment one of their mothers moves though, the group breaks up as they go scurrying back.

Easter, now already come and gone was not particularly welcoming to those seeking a long break away after the long indoor months. Rain and wind just about sums Easter up and true to form, as soon as the holidaymakers had returned home, the winds abated and the sun came out spreading its first noticeable but much looked forward to warmth of the year.

Fortunately I am now retired and as such,my wife and I are no longer tied to routines governed by early morning alarm clocks, commuter rush hours or daily routines. It is nice when the weather suddenly turns into a fine day to be able to say on the spur of the moment, “Let’s Go”. We tend to avoid going out much during Bank Holidays as we tend to find everything is a bit of a crush when millions of other people are intent on doing the same thing during their brief public holiday break. But then being retired, in it’s own way, every day is now something of a holiday break providing good use is made of it.

One such day occurred last week and on the spur of the moment we decided to go on a picnic. Out chosen destination was Stonebarrow Hill on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast which is about a 50 minute drive from our home.. Stonebarrow as everyone refers to it locally is open countryside owned by the National Trust of which we are members. It consists of a 148 high metre hill with fields rolling down to the sea. It is also adjacent to the renowned flat plateaued Golden Cap Hill which is the highest point of the large bight of coastline that forms the extensive and sweeping Lyme Bay. Stonebarrow is something of one of the National Trusts “hidden in plain view” gems.

Stonebarrow Hill is accessed by the aptly named Stonebarrow Lane which starts just before entering the small coastal town of Charmouth. Motoring skills come very much to the fore when driving up Stonebarrow Lane. It is very steep, Normally first or second gear only.for a considerable distance. The lane is narrow with insufficient room for two vehicles to pass, so a bit of give and take using depressions in the hedgerow is essential when encountering oncoming traffic. The upper sections of the lane fall away to a deep ravine type hill as well. The effort is well worth it for the spectacular view from the top. Although National Trust property, there is no charge for access or parking.If you have a pair of binoculars or even a telescope, they are well worth bringing.

The lower half of the land is part of the Coastal Path between Golden Cap and Charmouth and occasional hardy walkers can be seen traversing it. It is also a very dog friendly area and our Labrador “pup” Lou Lou now 18 months old and fully grown enjoyed racing up and down the slopes as she stretched her youthful limbs letting of steam in the process.

The drive to Stonebarrow is quite pleasant too. Either via the A3066 from Crewkerne through the charming small town of Beaminster nestled in the northern Dorset hills, and with its narrow roads and market place, or back via the B3165 north of Lyme Regis towards Crewkerne once again..

In all it was a sudden and unexpected day out but one that holds the promise of many more such days in the forthcoming months.

The European Brexit Referendum – In or Out?

BrexitNow the Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from his lengthy European country hopping tour, clutching what has become know as “The Deal” of reforms the EU has not so graciously awarded the UK, he immediately announced a date of Thursday 23rd June as polling day for the long awaited referendum, (or Brexit ), on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union (EU). I for one cannot help but be reminded of the similarity when another British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain also returned from Europe brandishing a piece of paper with appeasement written all over it.

Campaigning by both the Leave-EU and Stay—in factions has now begun, but so far I find both of them quite lack-lustre in putting any form of message across. I find that disappointing considering both campaigns have seasoned politicians from all sides of the political spectrum as their front-runners. The Stay-in campaign appear to have adopted a ceaseless barrage of fear in a attempt to persuade, or even scare voters to remain in the EU. Fears like national security, job opportunities and so on, all of which I find feeble and groundless. The Leave-EU campaign however I  find  are also failing to put forward what should be the positive benefits for leaving the EU. In short, so far the UK electorate have faced a totally negative fear campaign on one side, and a far less than positive one on the other side.

Although it is still early days for both campaigns, opinion polls tend to indicate the views those in favour of leaving or staying are reasonably evenly  divided, with about a third of the electorate as yet undecided. Apparently there is even a marked trend in age difference between the two sets of opinions with younger voters more likely to vote to stay in the EU and with more older voters wanting to leave. In a way I suppose that is understandable as no one below the age of 40 will have had any experience what being a totally independent country and what the opportunities that brings really means.

With the exception of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the leaders of other political parties have declared their parties are for remaining in Europe. However one cannot help but wonder just how many grass roots members in their own parties they are speaking for?  Reports indicate the Conservative Party appear to have deep internal divisions on the issue, and I would not be in the least surprised if other political parties are facing the same problem. Either way a referendum does not depend on what individual political parties, local or national politicians say. A referendum is where a country as a whole votes for a national policy, not a local political party or politician. It is where the individual electors collective opinion counts only.

As for myself, I am definitely for Leaving the EU. I voted not to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1975. Although in many ways at the time this was little more than a glorified European street market, I could foresee the ramifications of what those who were then pushing for, and still are, for ever greater political union, would really mean. What we have now is something bordering on just short of a European super-state. The danger with something this big is ultimately it tries to make “one cap fits all” policies, and  for an area as big and diverse in people, customs, practices and beliefs that Europe is. Such policies can only lead to resentment which does no one any good.

To me the EU’s recent concessions to the UK are merely unimportant bread crumbs. What was given on one hand can be taken back again by one method or another if we remain members of the EU. What I found more important as well as infuriating, humiliating and disgraceful was  a week in which my own Prime Minister had to effectively plead with the leaders of 27 other countries as they debated and decided what they would allow my country to do or not do. That in a nutshell sums up what the EU is about. It does seem as if individual national governments and the voters that elected them are now in effect starting to become subservient to the collective decisions of other countries. It no longer matters what part of the political spectrum anyone’s views are,  as national governments are in effect gradually becoming almost like puppet governments in terms of EU policies they would have to comply with even if ones own government and public opinion are totally opposed to it.

I am also mindful of ideas like a European army that have already been floated around by European politicians. Although these ideas received little support for now, I have no doubt they will be raised again in the future and all that entails. I understand the EU is even seeking to bring the UK Coast Guard under its control and likely unpopular proposals like the power ratings of electric kettles seem to have been temporarily shelved while the Brexit campaign is underway. I look at our once proud and robust fishing industry now totally decimated and cannot help but think this is what the policies of the EU gave to us, or should that more accurately be, took away from us.

It is true to say that UK politicians do make mistakes, but then so do other European politicians. The difference is the electorate has the power to dismiss a UK government through a general election, but has no power to dismiss European politicians.

Winston Churchill was a great wartime leader whom without his anti-appeasement stance and defiance, it is unlikely the UK could have withstood, let alone be a essential part in winning World War 2. Although I am unlikely to have ever agreed with his peacetime policies, I do recognise Churchill had great foresight. One of his quotes on Europe was

Of Europe Churchill once said;

 ‘If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”

Being anti-EU however does not make me anti-European, quite the opposite. Europe is rich and diverse in its many cultures and long may it be so. I have always found individuals warm and welcoming and  I would not what to see such diversity gradually eroded away by the desire of some for increasing European conformity.

Despite the negative fear campaign being waged by the Stay-in the EU group, I am not in the least bit afraid to leave. What really scares me is the thought of what Europe will become if we remain in it, and what the UK will also gradually be forced to become too. For this reason alone I trust the electorate do not make the same mistake they made in 1975 and become beguiled by the romance of Europe as opposed to the hard realities.

January 2016

Happy New Year 02As we venture into the new year ahead of us, many of us will already be making plans for holidays escapes, family events and so on. It is also the time of the year when I try to look ahead at how forthcoming situations are likely to develop.

.

Politics.

Well the last year certainly saw a major sea change in the face of British politics following the General Election. As I predicted, the Lib/Dem Party suffered badly at the hands of the electorate, even in some of their previous stronghold seats. Labour fared better but were completely routed in Scotland following the expected surge in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP). This now only leaves the three traditional parties with one seat each in Scotland. Despite showing strong backing in the ballot box, UKIP, failed to translate this into sufficient votes to gain seats except one they held due to the local popularity of the sitting MP. All of this, particularly the collapse of Labour seats in Scotland, enabled  the Tories to hold onto power but with only a slender majority. Due to the changed face of the House of Commons, it is likely the year ahead will contain much wrangling about Scotland which already has it’s own separate Parliament, also being able to vote on matters concerning England alone via its Scottish MP’s, while English MP’s are unable to vote on Scottish matters.

The thorny question of the much promised European Referendum will also take increasingly prominence as the year wears on. Proposed reform of the EU will be under discussion during the year particularly the question of benefit payments to migrants. This is likely to require a treaty change by all 28 member states of the EU, but already some of the more poorer member states have indicated they are unlikely to agree to this.Getting the required unanimous consent for such a change may well prove impossible. All of this means the Prime Minister will quickly run out of time for manoeuvring room on the referendum and if he does not call the referendum this year, then he will be forced to do so in 2017 when more favourable conditions for a Yes vote from his point of view may have substantially changed.

Immigration.

The past year has seen a groundswell of migrants both refugees and economic flooding into Europe. As refugees are supposed to be settled in the first non-war torn country they reach, it is debatable whether all refugees into Northern Europe are economic migrants or not. Whatever the nuances of classification may be, the impact of mass migration is a reality. Some countries have flung their doors wide open to migrants but after an estimated one million of more migrants have already entered Germany alone. there are signs of increasing polarization in some communities where internal tensions and friction have arisen. There are also signs that European politicians are now trying to limit even more migrant arrivals in the forthcoming year by persuading mainly more Eastern European countries to take a greater share of them, but is likely there will be resistance on this issue. If European countries do not succeed on the reallocation of migrants, it is possible even more internal tensions are unfortunately likely to arise.Whatever a individuals thoughts are on this matter, the reality is the floodgates to this human tide have now been well and truly opened and it may prove impossible to close them again.

Fishing for Bass is now illegal.

According to some newspaper reports, the 1st January was the day  when it became illegal for fishermen to fish for Bass, even when using one rod and line from the beach. These restrictions will last up until June after which time the rules will be relaxed to allow fishermen to catch one bass only.  Apparently this directive already branded by some as absurd, came unannounced from the EU and few in the UK Government seem to know anything about it. The questionability of this new non-Parliamentary law is further highlighted by those that claim there no shortage of bass and off-shore trawlers predominantly French and Spanish will still be allowed to catch up to 1.3 tonnes of bass per month. The logic behind what amounts to a diktat is as yet still unclear.Although this directive is but a small example of the EU law making process, assuming process is the right word,  it does highlight the dangers of the UK having relinquished it’s sovereign powers to a non-elected body that may not always appear to have the UK’s interests at heart. Roll on the referendum. My guess is I would be surprised if any beach angler were prosecuted over this issue.

Flooding.

The run up to Christmas and beyond saw the northwest of England continually pounded by exceedingly above average rainfall. Subsequent heavy storms have also been experienced in areas of the northeast like the historic city of York, and southwest Scotland causing severe flooding in all these areas .Although York does have good flood defences apparently the defences that protect the flood gates that oversees this flood catchment area are not as robust. Consequently it is claimed that Environmental Agency officials opened the flood gates to protect the flood gate mechanism but in so doing, allowed the city to flood. If true, many might find this sort of logic a bit hard to swallow.

I live close to the Somerset Levels which experienced similar problems two years ago and know what may look like statistics on a piece of paper, actually translates into many months of misery and hardship for both residents and businesses alike. Homes need to be vacated for remedial  repair work. while the residents live in temporary and often inconvenient accommodation.

I suspect when the dust settles, or perhaps a better euphemism would be when the floods recede, there will be some sort of enquiry into the whole issue of flooding. Perhaps a token head may roll here and there with promises made for the future. but until something is actually done, which usually costs money, chance flooding is likely to continue.

%d bloggers like this: