January 2017

Happy NY 2017

This is the time of year I try to forecast likely events in the year ahead and based on previous years my ‘crystal-ball’ gazing has been reasonably accurate.

Politics.

The Brexit process will clearly continue to play a major role during 2017. Whether or not the Government’s stated timetable of formally moving Article 50 of the European Treaty by the end of March is achieved, largely depends on a Supreme Court ruling during the coming month. Whichever way the ruling goes, I would still predict Article 50 will be activated during the year although fresh legal challenges are likely.

It does seem to me these legal challenges over Brexit are causing something of a constitutional crisis, in that they bring into question whether it is a democratically elected government that runs the UK, or the courts. For any government irrespective of their political persuasion, it would be a untenable position for every decision they may make to be open to legal challenge, and I foresee possible legislative moves to curb the power of the judiciary in determining what a government may or may not do.

January 20th also sees the US President elect Donald Trump taking office. Although US politics are a matter for the US, the fallout of any policy change is likely to effect the rest of the world. Judging by statements being made by Donald Trump, it is clear that whatever new policies he actually proposes, his administration will be like that of chalk and cheese when compared with the current policies of the outgoing Obama administration. The ripples of these changes will most definitely reverberate around the world and will be felt by many including the UK.

European Elections

Numbers of European countries are due to hold elections during 2017 including France and Germany. Both of these countries have been heavily effected by large immigrant influxes over the past  two years, which may well have a considerable bearing on how electors in those countries vote. The present incumbent President Hollande has announced he will not be seeking re-election and it is possible a new president of a different political persuasion and outlook could be elected.

Although the current German President Angela Merkel is likely to retain power, a current wave of unpopularity in Germany may well see her support and therefore her influence much less than at present.

UK Elections

In the UK, as to which way the wind is blowing in terms of support for any given political party remains unclear. Many traditional Labour supporters feel they are between a rock and a hard place at the moment, with many unhappy at f the stance Labour took on the Brexit referendum and many are equally unhappy at either the leadership or the stance their MP’s took at supporting or rather, not supporting the Labour leader. One things always rings true in politics, a divided party which Labour appears to be at the moment do not win votes.I still sense a feeling of public unease with the Lib/Dems and although UKIP are still likely to attract disaffected voters for the time being, I do not sense any great public appetite for this party.

Apart for any by-elections that may occur, the next litmus test of public political opinion will be the local County Council elections in May. Issues like proposed three weekly refuse collections are likely to weigh heavily, but often public support on national issues have a way of deciding support for the composition of local councils. Incumbent governments usually lose some support in the form of protest votes in local elections. However with a new Prime Minister in the Form of Teresa May who still seems to enjoy a good measure of public support, I would predict the Tory Party will probably retain the councils they currently hold and may well increase that number.

Merry Christmas Folks! – 2016

holly-rholly-r

A Merry Christmas and a

Happy and Healthy New Year

to all my readers.

 

Snowman Waving

Well Folks, It is that time of year when many will be looking forward to a well earned seasonal break and hopefully in the company of ones family.

It is also a time of year when many also like to hear Christmas carols which often help set the tone to the Christmas period. One particular carol that I like is  based on a poem originally  written in 1872 by the poetess Christina Rossetti  and later set to music in 1906 by the composer Gustav Holst.

The carol is know as “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” and I think is one of the most beautiful carols I have heard. So beautiful it is well worth sharing with all those that would like to hear it. The video below is of the carol being sung by the renowned King’s College Choir of Cambridge.

 

There will never be, a poem lovely as a tree

IMGP3780A sure sign that Autumn has both come and is now fading into winter, is the last few days I have spent  in my gardens with a leaf blower and collector. The Autumn has lingered on this year providing spectacular views in the surrounding countryside of a honey golden landscape. Now a cold north wind has set in causing the trees to rapidly give up their leaves that have nourished them throughout the summer in the process known as photosynthesis. Gardens and roadways are now littered with the fallout from this seasonal display but I do not mind, for without it the trees could not provide us with the soothing eye-fest that they do.

On the last day of October, my wife and I visited Stourhead in Wiltshire with its large landscaped grounds, to view and enjoy this seasonal wonder. Fortunately Stourhead which is owned by the National Trust is only a easy 30 minute drive from out home. Choosing the right time is critical as too soon and many of the leaves will not have yet changed colour. Too late and the leaves will have started to fall leaving the trees denuded and stark looking. We chose wisely as the following day the weather suddenly changed from a remarkably late autumnal warmth to a more chilly clime more associated with the onset of winter.

Not only did we choose wisely, but so did thousands of other visitors who also decided the best day to visit was the same as ours. Fortunately the grounds of Stourhead are so large, it simply swallows up the crowds making all vistas appear as if only a few people are there.

As is my want as I laboured away in the garden, it gives time for ones thoughts to roam free and the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer crossed my mind.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

It is a delightful poem that has been put to music and sung by many people, but to me the best and most idyllic version I have ever heard was by the great singer with the deep rich voice, Paul Robeson. I have added a copy of this below. I have also added a few of the pictures I took at Stourhead.

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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.

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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.

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