Sunday, 5 January 2020

Disconnected Railways

There's a lot wrong with the railways in Britain. I hear about it everyday from passengers. The prices are too high. The service too unreliable. The solution, I'm told, is to re-nationalise the whole system. As with politics, there's a disconnect in the publics mind as to what the cause of their complaints are. And thus the solutions they find will not likely work out for them.

Most of the reliability problems sit at the door of Network Rail, who are responsible for the infrastructure. Network Rail is already a state owned enterprise. And the high prices? Tickets are already subsidised by the taxpayer. Passengers don't pay for what they get as it is. But prices can be raised or lowered as a matter of government policy through the subsidies they pay into the system. Re-nationalisation is not a necessity.

Every now and then I'll engage with a passenger and offer my thoughts, if they seem genuinely interested and civil. But I know a confused look when I see one. My comments go in one ear, echo for a moment, then seep out of the other ear. It is just like politics, in more ways than one.

So most of the time, I just nod and smile. I do a lot of that these days. Nodding and smiling. In fact it's become my number one response when dealing with people. Sometimes I find myself nodding and smiling at people just a fraction too early, before they've even begun to speak. Without fail, they will justify my nodding and smiling. So I will nod and smile with more vigour and enthusiasm.

But the working day will come to an end. It always does. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact to help get through it. I will be paid handsomely for selling tickets, providing information. And for nodding and smiling. Then I will go for a walk. My favourite walk takes me past Bournemouth Pier. Perhaps I'll sit for a while and gaze out to sea. And nod and smile. Just for a moment.
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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Good Intentions

I'm not overly fixated on resolutions. Experience has taught me that they simply set you up for a fall. But still, I do start each year with good intentions and grand plans. Giving up smoking is normally one begun at midnight and bust before the first day is done. Not this year. My app tells me that it's been 1 month 18 days and 9 hours since I last had so much as a single puff. If it hadn't been for a slight hiccup, my app would boast longer still. There will be no more hiccups. I promise. And I shall report back in a years time with a screenshot from my app that I can be proud of.

There are travel plans. There are always travel plans. This year I have, in alphabetical order, China, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan in mind. You might assume that my list of visited countries is missing ones beginning with C and U, and that I've decided 2020 is the year to knock them off. But it's just coincidence. Generally, though, my goals as I've grown older have become more mundane. If I can get through the year happy, healthy and financially solvent, then all is good with the world. 

And then there are those little things that you keep meaning to do but have just never gotten round to. Like having a ride on the ferris wheel on Bournemouth's sea front. It's been there for years. I've walked past it dozens, maybe hundreds of time. Always thinking, I must stop and ride it one day. I can confirm that that day came on January 1st. There's no better day to start getting things ticked off lists.
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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A New Decade

I was born not long after the 70s started. So I have only vague memories of that decade. I went to school through the 80s. I could refer to it as the decade of learning, but that’s a process that’s never stopped. The 90s were a decade of partying. And, if I’m to be honest, excess. I was tee-total in the 00s, spending my money on travel. And, of course, I spent half the decade living in Mexico. The photo above is from early 2010, just about ten years ago. I look a little weary, but I had just run 6kms.

How have the 10s treated me. It’s been a good decade really. But I have aged. I feel it. I see it when I look in the mirror. It’s the first decade where I’ve ended it feeling a bit slower and a bit weaker that when the decade started. It struck home in September when I became stricken with glandular fever. It’s a nasty illness regardless of age. But I’m quite certain I’d have coped better a decade earlier. It’s all downhill from here I guess. Still, one hopes it will be a slow decline, dragged out over several more decades. 

I’ve given up smoking. That should help hugely. I should probably try quitting political discussion. I can’t imagine being angry is a healthy state of affairs, and politics is full of anger these days. I should try and get back to running too. Or cycling. Or at least walking. I have an Apple Watch with an activity tracker. I’ll try and close my rings each day. But whatever I do, it’s likely that I’ve now passed the half way point in life. Extremely likely. There’s less to come than has already been and gone. That focuses the mind.

Happy New Year to you. I wish you good health and happiness for the year, and the decade, to come.

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Monday, 16 December 2019

End Of The Line

The 2019 general election is over, and despite my desire for an unlikely result, my suggestion that the outcome was unpredictable was nothing more than wishful thinking. Boris Johnson will be in Number 10 for the next five years. Life will go on. The campaign to Remain in the EU will not. It is, barring something quite extraordinary happening, over. There is no democratic pathway to victory, and that must be accepted. We will leave the EU in January. It is true that Remain/EURef2 parties won 53% of the vote. It is reasonable to say that the Conservatives will take us out of the EU against the will of the people. However, our system of democracy works on a First Past The Post basis. And I have some thoughts about that, the result, and the way forward.

First Past The Post

FPTP does not usually produce a parliament that is truly reflective of the electoral vote and this time is no different. There have been occasions when a party with fewer votes that their direct opposition end up with a majority and can form a government. In this election, the Liberal Democrats increased their vote share by more than the Conservatives, SNP and Greens combined but ended up with one MP fewer than they started with.

On the flip side, FPTP does mean that there are fewer coalitions, which I consider a good thing. It also means that genuinely extreme parties are usually kept out of parliament. UKIP, despite its large vote tally in 2015, won just a single seat - and that was a Tory who had defected. I have never argued against the FPTP system, so I cannot grumble now that it has worked against me.

Jeremy Corbyn 

His supporters are already claiming that the defeat of Labour was simply down to Brexit. It is true that Brexit played a significant role, not least because by refusing to choose a side, Corbyn alienated both Leavers and Remainers. But the truth is, people just don’t like Corbyn. They don’t trust him. He was toxic in this election. He is incredibly divisive. And that was summed up best by Corbyn himself, with his party slogan.

‘For the many, not the few’ sums up his entire campaign. It’s a slogan that people are likely to associate with his Marxist roots, and this is not a country that is remotely inclined to lean very far in that direction. It’s an ‘us and them’ message, which is by its nature divisive. Even then, Corbyn failed to properly and accurately define exactly who belonged to ‘us’ and who belonged in the ‘them’ camp. Allowing your opponents free reign to do that for you is political suicide.

And yet, despite the crescendo of boos at the final curtain, Corbyn is refusing to leave the stage. He is attempting to set the scene for the next election. If he is allowed to do so, he is setting up the Labour Party for further defeat.

The Liberal Democrats 

I voted Lib Dem. The plea from those who ran tactical voting websites, plotting the best course to ensure that the Tories were denied a majority, was for me to vote Labour. I considered it. Right up till the last moment with pencil in hand, I was not entirely decided. But I could not vote for a party lead by Corbyn. Still, my vote for the Lib Dems was far from enthusiastic. You might think that their policy switch - from arguing for a second referendum to promising revocation - would sit well with me. It didn’t.

I believe in democracy. I am of the opinion that there should not have been an EU referendum in the first place. But there was. The electorate made a choice and it was (and still is) the duty of parliament to work towards taking the UK out of the EU. The only democratic means of reversing that instruction was through a second referendum. That was a poor call by the Lib Dems. And whilst they won my vote in this election, they lost me as a member of the party.


The UK will now leave the EU on January 31st. I am in no doubt the campaign to rejoin will start immediately. I won’t be aon that bandwagon, at least not for a while. Nothing will be achieved by stomping up and down, screaming blue murder on February 1st. Its also not reasonable to expect the EU to either want or allow the UK to jump in and out of the union every five minutes. The case to rejoin the EU will be made, or not made, further down the road. The case will be made on economic and social issues, and will include a new generation and a different demographic. And I will revisit the debate when the time is right. Exactly, when? I do not know. It could be two years. It could be twenty.

Until then, whilst I am not sure many people will ‘feel the heal’, I will enjoy the tranquility brought about by the certainty. And I will console myself that those who voted most fervently for Brexit are the ones who are most likely to suffer from the consequences, rather than myself. Indeed, when it all goes wrong and they come cap in hand for benefits, perhaps I’ll vote Conservative just to spite them.


My Inbox will be a more restful place now that I've unsubscribed from the Lib Dems, Open Britain and People's Vote. I wish Boris Johnson the best. He is what he is, and I've covered that ground before. Perhaps what is important is this: he isn't much of an ideological extremist. He isn't thick. He isn't really 'Britain Trump'. And thanks to his sizeable majority he will, one hopes, free himself from the ERG gangsters that have had the Tory party by the balls for the last several years. His post-election speeches clearly seem aimed at a new, wider audience than before. His narcissistic tendencies may well be our saving.

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Monday, 9 December 2019

Brexit 419

I'm not going to call Boris Johnson a liar. There may well be a mountain of well documented untruths, deceptions and broken promises to put forward as evidence regarding the question of his honesty. But I've decided I won't stoop so low as to call Mr Johnson a liar.* It's unseemly, undignified and adds nothing to the febrile political atmosphere. What I will say is this. If the Conservative manifesto began with the words, 'Dear Beloved One', introduced the writer as  a Mr Johnson Ahmad (a close confidant of the daughter of the late Colonel Muammar Ghadafi, dontcha know) and finished with a request for the readers bank details and a small advance fee,  then the document would more accurately reflect it's true nature.

The Conservative manifesto is, at its heart, the ultimate 419 scam. A scam that promises the world, and all for such a small price. Just a little initial sacrifice. And then another small charge. And so on, until you've nothing left to give. Nada. So on until it's all gone. Your savings. Your pension. Your NHS. And the promised riches are still no where to be seen. Because, of course, they never existed. No faux Nigerian prince has ever attempted anything this ambitious, this audacious, on this sort of scale. The Tories are breaking new ground with the scam, and they are confident that they can pull it off. And why not? If we've learned just one thing these last three years, it is that a surprisingly large proportion of the general public are a greedy, gullible and easily duped.

I do not know what the result of the general election will be. The pollsters seem convinced of a large Conservative majority. But then, they were wrongly convinced of a similar Tory landslide last time round. To my mind, this is as unpredictable as an election can possibly be. But if there one outcome that this democratic exercise will deliver of which I am certain, it is this: the Leave voters will be disappointed. A hung parliament may take away their dreams of Brexit with a second referendum. Or - worse still - Boris Johnson  will triumph, but his undeliverable Brexit promises will be shown for what they are. A scam, peddled by shysters, bought and paid for by mugs.

*Not today. But normal service will resume tomorrow.

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Saturday, 23 November 2019

Find Your Luxury Stay at Heathrow London

It is vacation time again! People are finding new ways to please themselves, and traveling is one of them. It can be a solo trip or with family. In either case, you want a hassle-free travel that will save you time to explore the city. It can only be done if you have planned it over before. This traveling rate has increased the commercialization even in the small towns. You won’t believe how many options you will get for your stay from local budgeted hotels to seven-star hotels. You can choose accordingly as per your budget.

On exploring the internet about hotels in London, you will get immense options that will blow up your mind and make it difficult for you to choose. People have their priorities set; if they are going on a vacation, they will choose hotels within the city, and if for business, most people try to stay near the airport. When it comes to the airport, Heathrow is considered to be the most beautiful and large airport. You can get stays nearby quickly, and many hotels are willing to help you to visit the city in your meantime.

If you are looking for such a budgeted luxury Heathrow airport hotels with parking, then you should consider trying with Atrium Hotel Heathrow.

Choosing the best option among many hotels

It may be challenging to choose the best among all, as each hotel offer you tempting offers to welcome aboard. But you can choose wisely among all? Though, you can try to filter out hotels as per your requirement. This decision can be based on many factors like location, luxury, budget, and many more. It is essential to make the right choice as your complete journey depends on where you stay. If you are happy with your hotel and service, then you can consider it to be the best part.

How a pleasant stay will leave an impact on you
A visit is one of the essential parts of your journey, and you want it to be in the right way. Before the rest, you try to do all the research about the hotels and the place where you are going to stay. Hotel management takes care of all your need during your stay and makes sure you will love their service and expect you will recommend them to your friends. But sometimes there is no guarantee of the quality, so be careful with your research part.

Creating hotel awareness through great marketing

It has become the trend now that travel bloggers visit places and share their travel and stay experience with the world through their social media platform. It is one of the best ways that any hotel can create their awareness among people. Apart from this, an excellent staff makes sure your stay should be a memorable one, and you revisit the hotel again. So make sure you choose the right one and make your stay remarkable.
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Subtitles, Nipples and Netflix

Subtitles are a wonderful invention. For the hard of hearing, or just plain stone deaf, they give meaning to the magic of the moving picture. They reveal the mystery of a foreign tongue. And they bring us a dose of humour when they go wrong. Yet I did not warm to the subtitle for many years. They were a distraction. A nuisance. Irritating. Their mere presence on screen would compel me to change channel.

I did not watch foreign films. Ever. Except, if I’m to be entirely truthful, with the exception of a few choice late night French or Spanish flicks on Channel 4. There was no internet when I was a teenager. A saucy seƱorita revealing a breast or two in a moody continental film was pretty much as good as it got. Teenage angst is defined by the horror of patiently sitting through a film one does not understand, only for the joyous moment to be dashed by subtitling covering up the wonder of the female nipple. Lads born on this side of the millennial divide just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Then I moved to Mexico. And subtitles became the norm. If we went to the cinema, I had to make sure I booked tickets for the subtitled version and not the dubbed one. At home, anything we watched either had Spanish subtitles on for Mrs P, or English subtitles for me. I became used to subtitles. They ceased to bother me at all. Indeed, they opened up a whole world of cinema to me.

Without subtitles I would never have met Hatidze in Honeyland, an endearing Macedonian production. I would not have gone on a trip to Acapulco with Mariano, Antolin and Justo. I would not have hit the campaign trail with Luis Colosio, and experienced the ensuing tragedy, in both 1994 and The Candidate. My taste buds would not have been tantilised by the Taco Chronicoles. I would not have become acquainted with the scandal of the Alcasser Murders in Spain. And I would have entirely missed out on the most bizarre real-life political murder mystery I've ever come across - Killer Ratings. I highly recommend all of the above, most of which can be found on Netflix.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. The cloud being Parchis. For Mrs P, it was a nostalgic trip back to her childhood. For me, it was drivel that achieved nothing more than inspiring a sense of pity for kids growing up in Mexico in the 80s and 90s. Whether they deserve the same level of pity as us British teens wailing at subtitled nipples is open to debate. You can decide that one for yourself.
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