Climate Conferences and Contrails

Another Climate Conference in Madrid made think today:

Recycle/use less plastic

Eat less meat

Avoid air travel

Try to live car free

These are some of the things one could do to help save the Planet for future generations.

According to Greenpeace one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and hence climate change is to “skip the airport” as air travel is so energy-intensive.

The UK is one of the biggest nations when it comes to consumption of aircraft flights. Admittedly we do live on an island, but Britons took 126.2 million flights in 2018. This figure is set to rise even further according to most forecasters.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley admits: “Some trips can only realistically be made by plane, but aviation plays a big part in contributing to climate change. So it is worrying if a significant proportion of the British public think that people should be able to travel by plane as much as they like.”

The Science is now out there. Check out for yourself and see what each flight produces using a Carbon Footprint calculator and remember it is not just carbon dioxide, but there are other pollutants produced by aircraft that contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Having flown a lot in the past, in ignorance of the eco-mess I was creating, I cannot really sit in judgement and start flight-shaming those that choose to fly in the future. But in 2020 I am not going to fly anywhere and make things worse. #flightfree2020

A train trip and then some.


It seems not that long ago, but in the Summer of 1989 and I was living in West Berlin. Spending a “year out” working in Germany as part of my degree course had been a fantastic experience, but now it was time to return to the UK.

It was a time of flux. People were leaving the Eastern Bloc in droves through the newly opened border between Hungary and Austria. Rumours were flying around about the political future, yet the Berlin Wall was still up and I needed to get back home.

The easiest way to get to and from the West was via Tegel Airport. That way you could avoid the hassle of travelling along the transit stretches of motorway or taking the trains through East Germany.

Nevertheless I decided to go by train, as I had to lug a fair bit of stuff back after clearing out of my flat.

At that time there was the only station that you could get a train out of West Berlin. It was called “Bahnhof Zoo” by the locals, it only had a couple of platforms, that were raised above the street level and it was a dark and depressing place.

The train I was due to catch ran overnight to Brussels. As soon as it arrived I jumped on and quickly sat down, dumping all my stuff in the first compartment that I came to. There was no point in getting settled, as the East German border control would be coming up soon.

The only other person already in the compartment was a young bloke, who was decked out in a classic “Chairman Mao” suit. He also wore a matching hat with the red star above its peak. The hat was as far better fit than his trousers, which were about 4 inches too short for him.

Like me he also had a fair amount of luggage. Most of his gear was stuffed into two huge laundry bags. The ones made of woven nylon that are virtually indestructible, but once the zip goes you have had it and they are rendered useless.

The East German border guards came on the train and checked our passports and visas without a hitch and then we were on our way. It turned out that “Chairman Mao” was in fact a Scouser called Gavin. He was on his way home to England as well.

The train we were on was from Moscow and Gavin had been on it from the start. I had a made up some food and brought some beer for the journey which we shared and we got chatting.

Gavin had been working as a nurse out in Australia on a short term contract and when it ended he just decided to come back surface rather than fly home. He travelled through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand mainly by train. One thing he noticed along the route was wherever he stopped, no matter how remote it was, you could just as easily find someone selling cans of Coke, as you could get your hands on a bowl of rice.

He avoided travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia, but had to endure a bumpy bus ride through Laos in order to reach the Chinese border.

“What was China like?” I asked. “Totally alien. Like being on a different planet” replied Gavin.

Wherever he went he was just gawped at. China was only opening up after being a closed country for so long. Not many people would approach him, which made sense as most had probably not seen a Westerner before. They just stood and stared.

He was out there for almost a month, but knew it was time to leave when he realised he was talking to himself on the street one day. “It just got a bit overwhelming, and I also got tired of everybody spitting everywhere.”

So he bought a train ticket from Beijing back to the UK, which must have cost him buttons compared to today’s prices.

“Avoid the Mongolian dining car,” was his advice about The Trans-Siberian railway which in itself sounded an amazing experience. Gavin described one “Genghis Kahn” look a like who raced the train for a while on horseback just for a bit of fun, before wheeling back to his camp.

A mis-calculation of the journey time meant he ran out of clean clothes. Hence the Chairman Mao suit, bought as a gift for his Dad, was pressed into service.

The next morning we were able to catch the Jetfoil from Ostend to Dover. In the days before the Eurostar it was the quickest way to get over the Channel.

The train station at Dover Docks was dank, and depressing and a bit of a let down after the speedy boat crossing. The slam door train to London Victoria was old and grubby. Welcome back to Blighty!

To cap it all Gavin failed to impress the British Rail guard with his Beijing to Birkenhead rail ticket. Folded and creased, it had certainly seen better days. It was made from the waxy carbon paper that you used to see on the old style airline tickets. It had a few holes punched in it by previous ticket inspectors.

The guard stood there giving a clearly tired “Chairman Mao” a knowing look.

“No need to start on one mate” said Gavin in his broad Scouse accent, “Think about it. If that ticket has got me this far already, it will do you!”

Gentrification – The Sourdough Index

I went to buy some bread from a baker’s shop in a smart part of town the other day.

When I asked for a small “Wholemeal”, I was told that there were none there. In fact it was a not a case of running out, but they did not sell wholemeal loaves at all. The nearest they had to that was a “mixed grain sourdough loaf”.  One of three types of sourdough bread they stocked in the shop. It looked lovely stuff in there too.

Nevertheless I was a bit taken aback. Is this the price of gentrification?

Added to this if I know the looks I would get if I asked for sourdough bread in my local bakers.

 

World Refugee Day

Today I read that it was World Refugee Day. Thanks to The Guardian newspaper for printing a hard copy of the List. This is a list of 34,361 people who have died trying to reach Europe since 1993.

This List is cold, harsh and to the point.

A hard copy was given away as part of a supplement with today’s (20 June 2018) print edition of the Guardian. I only came across it as a scrabbled around for the sport section of the newspaper.

It makes sobering reading.

You can download a pdf copy of the list here.

 

Let’s see what you would have won…….

Jim Bowen’s death was announced today. He was an absolute legend and loved by millions.

I wrote about the TV show Bullseye in a previous post a few years ago as it was something that I had rediscovered.

Cheers Jim I salute you!

 

 

 

I love the Challenge Channel on Freeview Channel 46. It broadcasts repeats of Bullseye on a regular basis, often back to back. There are plenty of shows to choose from as 15 series were produced. It is great!

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The host, Jim Bowen (voted the Most Popular Game Show host last month in an online poll) is a proper legend. Bullseye was his show and it is great to look back and re-live those memories of Sunday tea time viewing thirty years ago. After all as Jim says “You can’t beat a bit of Bully.”

A classic episode was witnessed the other day. In the final round the first couple were a bloke, who had a delicious Bobby Charlton hair cut (circa 1972); we are talking proper comb-over job. The other contestant was in fact his daughter. In total contrast she had a mass of blonde hair, styled in a tightly permed mullet. Not a great style combo, but both were pretty handy dart throwers.

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Fair play, they did well and won the best part of £600 in the quiz rounds. They then went on to scoop a shed load of stuff on Bully’s Prize Board, namely a washing machine, a toasted sandwich maker, a hostess trolley and an telephone answer machine. This last high-tech device was the size of a shoe box.

Happy with their winnings the leading pair declined the offer from Jim to gamble their prize haul and go for the Star Prize. They had a great result in terms of cash and prizes won, so it seemed a prudent move not to blow the lot in a dash at the Star Prize.

In these situations whenever the first pair of contestants decline the chance of trying for the Star Prize, the second pair of players are invited back to have a go at the big win. So up step Kevin and Jack from Barrow in Furness. They previously managed to win £550, which probably could pay the price for a terraced house in their home town back then. Consequently they were not tempted to wager their cash, that they could hit 101 or more with 6 darts.

So here was a rare event, up steps the the third couple with a chance of something big after being knocked out in Round 1. Steve and Trish had not had a great day so far and had only managed to win to £80 earlier in the show. That was all they had to hand back to Jim and gamble with in order to have a pop at the Star Prize.

The Star Prize was always not to be sniffed at. It could be a decent long haul family holiday, or a brand new car hidden behind a big, red velvet curtain in the TV studio.

This prize would not be revealed till the end of the show, but it was a “no brainer”  decision to make for this last couple. They had to go for it. Throw 6 darts and get a combined score of 101 or more. Job done.

Trish looked like she could hold her own in a bar fight, truth be told. She gritted her teeth and bowled up to the oche and proceeded to chuck 22 with her 3 arrows. Not a great start, but she was the “non-dart player”, so all was not lost.

downloadUp steps hubby Steve, the so called dart player, who hits treble 19 with his first dart and lands on single 16 with the next. This means that with Trish’s score of 22 added to his two darts things are looking great.

With a total of 95, the man of the moment only has to get 6 or more with his last dart! Happy Days!

Now if you look at the board what would you do? Aim left, surely? As anything will do 12 through to 19. Virtually half the board to aim at – it is not a tricky throw at all. It is 6 or more remember, with the last dart.

Yet what does Steve hit?  THREE!!!! Are you sure? A collective gasp is heard from the studio audience off camera. Single 3! Steve loses the £80 won previously and  the Star Prize also slips from his grasp. Blood drains from his face. In close up you can see it has dawned on him. Yes Steve, your other half could have done better than that with one dart.

Trish slowly hands back the cash to Jim, our ever diplomatic host. It hurts, you can see it in her eyes. Mind you, it is water off a duck’s back to Jim, who puts his arms around the losing couple and bellows “Let’s see what you would have won!”

Diminutive Steve stands still, ashen faced, anticipating a beating from the wife when he gets home to Rochdale. The curtain is drawn back to reveal the Star Prize. It is a blinking speed boat as well – loving it !! Trish does not look a happy bunny!

Film Review of 2017

Best seen on a big screen Blade Runner 2049, but it was just huge in scale and totally absorbing. Ridley Scott has shown what a master of his craft he really is.

Biggest surprise was Logan Lucky – I watched it with low expectations but I got lucky. It was a fast moving caper with some great laughs.

Best car chases and sound track Baby Driver, only trouble is that you watch it again and see Kevin Spacey in it, playing a manipulative boss. Still, anything that has a The Damned track in it is worth a look.

Best cast list was surely The Death of Stalin.

Honorable mention to Dunkirk which I saw as well as Guy Martin on Channel 4 restore the famous Spitfire that was ditched on the beach.

Most disappointing was Detroit.

The one that got away was Captain Underpants. I just kept missing out on chances to see it at the cinema. One day…….

BEST film for 2017 though was Land of Mine. First time I have ever seen a film in Screen 3 at the Watershed, which is tiny. My rusty German was good enough to understand the dialogue without worrying about the subtitles. A few years ago I was lucky enough to go on holiday to near where the film is set and it was the only one film that made me cry. So for that alone it gets my vote.

12 months ago

A year ago I was recovering in a neurosurgical ward with strict orders to stay calm and relaxed, avoiding unnecessary stress at all costs.

Doing so would keep my systolic blood pressure as low as possible and minimise any post op-complications. Without being overdramatic about it, there was a risk of internal bleeding, which could cause a stroke or worse.

So what happens?

Donald Trump gets elected as President of the USA on that very same day,

I can laugh at it now and enjoy the irony of it all, but at the time it was not helpful to put it mildly.

Doug Stanhope made me laugh about the same time when I watched his take on Nationalism back on the ward and now this reminds of that stay in hospital rather than the Trump election.

Laughter always helps and heals.

Chicken – Egg?

Tame Impala? “Never heard of them” you may say.  Well I was in the same boat for a long while.

What came first, the song or the video in terms of entering my own consciousness?

Hard to tell really. But I saw this initially on Vimeo and loved the video first and foremost. It is a surfing video that happens to use the track as its theme tune. The whole package did not encourage me to surf, but it did make me look up the band involved.

It is not quite the same as hearing yet another Groove Armada track on a car tv advert. You know the song already, so the advert is not really important. In fact it is verging upon the annoying after a while.

So which came first the video or the sound track?

Who cares in this case? Loving it all.

Classic one liners……7

Dennis Skinner was at it  yet again today. Unfortunately the State Opening of Parliament clashes with Day 2 of the Royal Ascot Race meeting and it is no secret as to where the Queen would rather be.  It is a perfect opportunity for Dennis to just do what he does best.

Even in what was a shortened ceremony Black Rod still came knocking on the door of the House of Commons to summon MPs through to the so called Upper Chamber in order to hear the Queen’s Speech. This is the way things work in our Parliamentary Democracy. The Queen sits in the House of Lords and tells someone to fetch the Commoners to hear what she has to say.

Not for the first time and hopefully not the last Dennis Skinner delivered yet another classic one liner.

Maybe we will not have to wait 2 years to hear the next one.

 

 

 

Even at the start of the clip you can see the thumbs up greeting from the MP for Bolsover to the man sent down from the Lords, so we could all see it coming.