Thursday, 22 June 2017

United Kingdom?

I’ve just been listening to a radio programme about a 15 year old girl from Northern Ireland who needed an abortion but had to travel to England to obtain it, at a cost of several thousand pounds, because it’s still illegal there.  She challenged this through the law, with financial help from family and friends, and last week the Supreme Court of the UNITED Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ruled against her on the basis that residual regional powers outweigh national ones.  I can’t, obviously, challenge their lordships’ interpretation if the law, but I can and do question whether there is really one such thing as ‘the law’ in this so-called country – or indeed whether it can really be called a country any more.

Devolution – the biggest constitutional mistake since 1715 – has had the opposite of the intended effect.  The idea was that different parts of the land had different needs, which they should be allowed, within appropriate constraints, to express and control through their own legislative and judicial bodies.  Fair enough.  Where it went wrong was to do it the wrong way round.  They should have started with the body of law that applied to everyone and then asked the regions to justify their exceptions.  Instead they assumed the exceptions stood and ducked the inevitable outcomes when a Westminster law came to a head-on collision with a Stormont, Cardiff or Edinburgh one.

As it stands, we are neither one country nor are we several.  And it’s not gonna get any simpler…



Wednesday, 21 June 2017


There’s a good word, which shouldn’t be needed nowadays but obviously is.  Chambers says ‘origin unknown’, applying to both senses of the word, but I leave aside the wool-weaving one and would like to focus on the meaning we all know, which Chambers, as always, succinctly sums up: ‘badly made or executed.’  (There are several more adjectives in there, which I won’t… oh all right, I will: ‘inferior, pretentious, cheap, nasty, sham, badly made…’ you get the drift…)

I’d intended to rant about the obvious shoddiness we seem to be getting engulfed in, but I see that I don’t need to.  So I will anyway:

I am to be prosecuted for doing 68 mph on a traffic-free dual carriageway where the limit would normally be 70, but has arbitrarily been set to 60.  I’ll be fined £120 and my insurance premium will go up by another £100 or so next year.  The total cost of this, not including human effort and stress, will far exceed any benefit to any person or organisation.  The thinking (if any) that resulted in this outcome can only be described as shoddy.

The people (I assume humans still exist there) behind Facbok, a computer program I sometimes make use of, see it as their role to keep the universe on its toes and themselves at its centre.  They do this by changing their program whenever they suspect another human might have started to grasp it.  Unfortunately, they do this really badly.  Double shoddy.

… and thirdly – oh, I can’t be bothered to do thirdly.  It’s politics. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Transport of Delight?

TfL does not, as you might guess, stand for ‘transport fucking lunacy’.  That’s putting it too strongly; but only just.  I will tell the story.

To travel from Romford to Charing Cross, you need to get a train to Stratford and then change to the tube.  So we bought train tickets for that first leg, assuming we’d then clock in to the tube for the rest of the journey. 

Not so.  Without walking for half a mile, exiting the station and then re-entering it and walking the half mile back, there seemed to be no means of paying for the second leg of our journey.  We asked a nice staff man who didn’t see the problem, and indeed there turned out not to be, as we were just waved through by the weary attendant at Charing X on the flash of a bit of roughly right-coloured cardboard.  Lucky.

Z rightly insisted on a more informed approach to the return trip, so we clocked in at Charing X, exited and re-entered at Stratford, and caught a slow train back to Romford.  (Finding that one was a whole different, which I’m too tired to relate in detail.)

The moral, if any, of this story (apart from don’t go to London from Romford without serious forethought) is as follows:

If you are going to bring a lot of different things together under one name, make damned sure the bits add up to the whole, rather than the whole consisting of the bits.

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Caravan Has Legs

Caravan diaries 17.2

Now that Z has her new hip and can do level walking at least as well as I can, I decided a couple of outings were in order.  The first was Lydstep Head, which is a fairly gentle circular mile with great views south and east across to Caldey Island, west towards Manorbier and the wilder coast beyond and, in the last stretch, downwards to what’s now called Lydstep Haven. 

Once upon a time one went (or was taken, to be exact) to this uninspiring shingle beach for a sole purpose – to walk, at the lowest tide, round to the spectacular caves that must, now I think of it, be more or less underneath where we were walking.  Now it’s been turned into a very expensive caravan site, the entrance to which has been made to look like private property (which it isn’t of course, there are no private beaches in this country).  I’ve never driven down to it, but from above it looks horrible.  The walk is lovely, though, and the flowering gorse smelt as coconutty as always.

The other big walk was to Bosherstone.  This is an entirely man-made stretch of lakes created by an obviously mad 18th century aristocrat to grow waterlilies in, and now owned and curated by the National Trust.  (I know they have their faults, but imagine the country without them!) 

The car park at Bosherstone village being full, we drove round to Broadhaven beach and did the walk from there.  This was not so good, as it involved a long stretch over the beach; walking on soft sand, especially up a hill of it, is tough on the legs, heart and lungs.  But we made it back to the car, the village and the Govan Arms for lunch.  I was pleased to see that the scenic cameos my friend Graham Hurd-Wood had painted in his youth were still hanging on the wall.

On our last day, we’d intended to leave first thing, but the weather was so great that we delayed and instead went to Colbey Woodland Garden, another local NT property.  The garden is fine – what it says on the label, more or less – but they do need to have a look at their signage: I won’t bore you with details, let’s just say that if you have a ‘red’ walk on the map, a few red signposts along the way might help…