Gentleman Cyclist

July 24, 2018

St. Andrews here I come!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:23 pm

Posted on 24 July 2018

This is the first time for quite a few years that I have used the Caledonian Sleeper. After a very pleasant evening in the company of my good friend Jane at the splendid Look Mum No Hands cycling café in Old Street, I arrived at Euston in plenty of time to be able to use the showers in the first class lounge only to be told by the platform staff that the first class lounge was closed. However, there is a perfectly adequate was basin hidden away in my cabin so I employed the complimentary toiletries to good effect for an “underarm-underleg wash”, as my dear sister in law so delicately describes abbreviated ablutions.

Recalling how the movement of the train is not conducive to relaxing slumber, I retired early in the hope that I would nod off before our departure at 11.50, but that was a vain hope too. There was just too much hubbub and activity from other passengers and the slamming of the train doors just prior to departure would have woken me up in any case. Then the guest (we are “guests” on the sleeper: not “customers”, and heaven forfend that anyone should refer to us as “passengers”) in the adjacent cabin produced a sneeze of the kind of pitch and intensity of which the Flying Scotsman would have been proud. Then the train started moving. I think it would be easier to sleep in a chair facing the direction of travel rather than a bed across the carriage, but I have paid for this bloody bed so I shall do my best to sleep in it. Suffice it to say that this is the first night since being issued with my CPAP machine that I won’t be able to use it. There are no 3-pin sockets in the sleeper cabins. I don’t think it will matter very much: in order to suffer from sleep apnoea, firstly you have to be suffering from sleep.

Oh, and what, you may well ask, am I doing in St. Andrews? I shall be spending the next six days participating in a summer school dedicated to the study of the choral music of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. That, and catching up on my sleep.

July 17, 2018

Monk and Trump

Filed under: Essex,politics — admin @ 10:16 pm

Posted on 17 July 2018

There are numerous pointers that show the dire times in which we live, and how the march to fascism is progressing. One of these pointers is media compliance: when the mainstream media uncritically, slavishly even, follows the line of the fascists and makes their job easier.

The BBC comes in for a great deal of criticism for giving the right-wing an easy ride, whether it is the frequency of Nigel Farage appearing on Question Time, or Laura Kuenssberg orchestrating shadow-cabinet members’ resignations on air. There have been a few examples of leading interviewers and presenters doing their jobs objectively and fairly: Eddie Mair’s demolition of Boris Johnson a few years ago was a splendid example, and more recently, Andrew Neill’s attack on a Tory vice-chairman for claiming that Corbyn had been instrumental in passing secrets to this country’s enemies.

However, these are the exceptions and more often than not the extreme right are given a very easy passage. I’m going to dwell on one particular example from BBC Essex which happened on Friday 13th July, and that was Dave Monk’s totally one-sided handling of the anti-Trump demonstrations.

Monk’s approach was with the question “So does protesting work?” which can be answered quite simply by pointing out that any change for the better in people’s living conditions was achieved through protest. Votes for women, abolition of slavery, people’s improved working conditions have all come about because of protest. It’s what our democracy is based on. Yet he took a call from an “Alex” in Burnham who spouted hard-right rhetoric which Monk, an educated man (King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, Degree in Law) failed to challenge in any way. It was such a cosy chat that I suspected that this “Alex” was actually a plant he was given such a free ride for his odious views. His use of the far-right expression “snowflake” to describe anyone with reasonable, compassionate views, was repeated by Monk without question. The view was that Trump is president of the USA, and “Leader of the Free World”, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Monk that the Leader of the Free World does not pass legislation which allows his henchmen to rip babies from their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages, like a scene from the film “Schindler’s List”.

Then the programme cut to BBC Essex reporter Charlotte Rose in Southend who began by setting the scene, describing the small demonstration that was going on, and then added “It’s been quite an eventful 24 hours already, Dave. Clearly we saw in the Sun newspaper this morning the president saying the Brexit deal that Theresa May wants to negotiate was hopeless and we wouldn’t be able to do a trade deal with the US if we went ahead; he then rowed back on that this afternoon, saying the Sun story was “fake news”, he would love to do a deal with the UK so there’s been a bit of a reversal there already”. Sherry Fuller, one of the organisers of the protest, was introduced by Rose but was then rounded on by Monk, who clearly didn’t want any of this “snowflake” talk from his junior reporter, in one of the most unpleasant pieces of patronising on-air bullying I think I have ever heard. Sherry did especially well to withstand his line of questioning, and scored some excellent points. Sherry quite rightly pointed out that Trump was encouraging racists and homophobes and that his policies were very damaging. “Sounds great, Sherry, sounds great!” was Monk’s response, “but isn’t the reality in 2018 we’ve got to do a deal with the Americans in a post-Brexit world? We cannot afford to antagonise this man, we need him too much. He’s the President of the United States of America, we don’t have a lot of choice really.” It is curious, given those statements by Monk, that he didn’t challenge “Alex”. If it wasn’t for the stupidity of Brexit we wouldn’t be in the position that we had to rely upon a president who lies outrageously from day to day and who cannot be trusted on any issue.

When Sherry, quite reasonably, pointed out that Trump is closely following the path taken by Hitler in 1930s Germany, he was totally dismissive. “Don’t tell me you are equating Trump with Adolf Hitler, purleez tell me that!” follow by “No, no, no, no, no, that is going just too far. You may not agree with his views but you cannot say things like this. You are going completely over the top.” Sherry isn’t the first to make this comparison – serious historians say exactly the same thing, and Monk must know this.

When Sherry pointed out that Trump had rubbished May as a PM and that he had no respect for her, Monk said “He said that was fake news, that didn’t happen.”

This facility for a very experienced broadcaster like Monk to adopt the rhetoric of a serial liar, sexual molester, mocker of the disabled, one who allies himself with the KKK and Britain First, whose antics embolden the extreme right-wing thugs who are marching the streets in increasing numbers speaks volumes about where the BBC is politically. It is our licence fee that pays for the likes of Monk to appease fascists like Trump and his broadcast on Friday afternoon showed absolutely no balance. He should be utterly ashamed of himself and should be taken off the air.

Of course, the fact that Monk’s interview with Sherry Fuller took place on Friday afternoon means that Monk would not have been aware that Trump was about to show appalling disrespect to the queen; that a Trade Union leader was about to get beaten up in a pub by fascist supporters of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or that Trump was about to conduct a press conference with Putin that even Trump’s republican supporters were describing as “treasonous”. Of course, he wouldn’t have known these things, but none of them surprise anyone who has spent a few minutes watching Trump’s modus operandi and those of his supporters. They are all very strong signs that we are following a very similar path to that which Europe followed in the 1930s and are eminently predictable.

However, Dave Monk of BBC Essex clearly seems to think that such things are OK with his laid-back appeasement of a fascist president.

July 1, 2018

Pembrokeshire – Take Two-and-a-bit

Filed under: beach,Wales — admin @ 9:11 pm

Posted on 30 June 2018

The sun continues to shine and we keep doing holiday stuff. We brought the electric tandem with us but it looks as though it is going to stay in the car. I have swum twice at Caerfai, twice at Newgale and once at Abereiddy, but we also took a couple of boat trips, firstly around Ramsey Island, where, amongst other things, we saw Manx shearwaters flying in, ready to visit their burrows on Skomer Island.

It’s worth spending a bit of time mentioning Manx shearwaters. Apparently 360000 breeding pairs, something like 90% of the world’s population, return to Skomer every spring where each pair raises a solitary chick. The adults spend all day, once the chick is hatched, flying out over the Atlantic to gather food and each bird covers about 200 miles per day. They return under the cover of darkness in order to avoid the predators, feed the chick, and before first light, off they go again.The RSPB ring a lot of the young, and it seems that the oldest Manx shearwater recorded was 58 years old. The warden reckoned that bird flew over 5,000,000 miles in its lifetime.

Once the chicks are sufficiently developed, the adults just abandon them, leave them in their burrows and fly to the South Atlantic. The chicks flap their wings a bit for a few days and once they feel up to it their first flight is a non-stop trip, also to the south Atlantic. An amazing species.

Apart from boats, nature and swimming (Jan hasn’t swum. She prefers to remain fully dressed whilst either painting a picture or doing things with wool) we have done a few more holidayish things. We visited a woollen mill on the river Solfach, spent an hour or two in St. David’s Cathedral and eaten some very fine food.

Today I had three swims, two at Nolton Haven and one at Druidston. Given what a marvellous beach it is, I rather regret never having been to the Druidston beach before. The cliffs are superb, with a variety of rock types, the sand is fine and golden, there are plenty of rock pools and there is no nearby car park, so there are few people who use it. We were told by a young couple who had been there all day that there was some drama during the morning as there had been a fairly significant rock fall and another couple were that close that they were fortunate not to be injured. So it seems like quite a good idea not to sit immediately under the cliffs.

This impressive phenomenon is the tidal surge between Ramsey Island and the mainland at a reef of rocks known as The Bitches, possibly so named because they have presented such a danger to shipping over the years. They act as a barrage, creating a very impressive tidal weir, which of course changes direction at every slack water. The water drops about a metre at peak tidal flow.

The “Blue Lagoon”, Porthgain

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