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28 December 2008

Happy New Year!

I've had a computer-free, blog-free Christmas - apart from firing off the occasional short e-mail - which has been quite liberating in some ways, not so in others. On the one hand you are free to to the important things like spending quality time with family and putting on several pounds in weight with the aid of goose, turkey, Christmas pudding, mince pies, chocolates, beer and wine, etc., but on the other you know there are friends out there in cyberspace (some of whom were kind enough to send boxes of Christmas gifts) wondering if they have been either forgotten or ignored.

Well of course they probably aren't wondering any such thing, but it's a feeling you get when you are used to (or should that be addicted to?) being online regularly. Anyway, no doubt we shall get back to some kind of normality in a few days. Meanwhile I'd like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful 2009 (although it seems that Israel and the Palestinians are already knocking seven bells out of each other again).

Why do human beings have to be so disgustingly mad and evil?

17 December 2008

Two Presidents in Denial

You can't help wondering about the state of mind of some of the people who reach the pinnacle of power.

We have George Bush apparently finding it quite amusing to have two shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist, and he wonders "I don't know what his beef is". Then we have Robert Mugabe who denies the existence of cholera in Zimbabwe.

Only an idiot would be amused by an Iraqi throwing his shoes at you, because as most of us know, this counts as an extreme insult in Iraq and some other Middle Eastern countries. "What's his beef?" .. well, I'm guessing the guy did not find his presence in Iraq as something to be welcomed. I'm so glad Bush finds it amusing to be insulted because now he can laugh his smirking head off when I express the view that he's an idiot.

As for Mugabe, clearly this man is deranged. Not only has he ruined what used to be one of the most productive countries on the African continent, but he now comes out with the ludicrous statement that the cholera (which apparently no longer exists) was deliberately visited upon his country by the UK as a form of biological warfare being conducted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. But even as people are dropping like flies around him, as they have nothing else to drink but sewage-contaminated water, and their money is worthless, Mugabe states the cholera epidemic has been dealt with, so there's "no further need for war".

I find it hugely depressing that we have not dealt with this psycopath with the same enthusiasm that we dealt with Saddam Hussein.

10 December 2008

Am in the right Country?

Last weekend I visited my sister in the south-west London suburbs, travelling from North Yorkshire. I used trains and buses for the entire weekend. A couple of years ago I was ranting and raving about the chaotic state of our (privatised) railways, but now I have to acknowledge that things appear to be improving.

On the Saturday, my 08:10 First Trans-Pennine Express (Scarborough/Manchester) arrived in Malton Station at precisely 08:10 and deposited me in York Station bang on time, allowing me ten minutes before catching the 08:45 Grand Central Trains service (Sunderland/London Kings Cross) which arrived and departed at the scheduled times.

One hour and fifty minutes later I was in London (Kings Cross) and within ten minutes was sitting on a bus that got me across London in 25 minutes to Waterloo Station for my third train - South-West Trains service to Hampton Court. 

I got on the train at midday, and it was scheduled to depart at 12:06. I sat on the train gazing out of the window at the digital time display on the platform and as soon as the clock switched 
from 12:05:59 to 12:06:00 the train pulled out. By this time I was having to check that I was in the right Country because all the signs were that I was on the Swiss Railway system!

I arrived at Hampton Court Station on time. After checking into my hotel, I walked back to the station to catch one of two buses that would deliver me almost to my sister's door. At no time did I have to wait longer than 10 minutes for a bus.

The pleasure of all this well-timed public transport was enhanced by the paltry sum of money it cost me. By booking in advance on line, using my Senior Railcard, and taking advantage of a Grand Central Trains half-price offer for December, then travelling on London buses using my Senior Citizens free bus pass, I was able to complete the 230-mile journey from North Yorkshire to south-west London for the princely sum of £22.

I returned on Sunday for another £22, again without a hitch - up to a point .. Sod's Law came into play, and engineering works on the East Coast main line resulted in my train to York being delayed by half an hour. This meant I missed a (free) bus ride home and had to resort to a taxi that cost me the same amount of money that I had just spent for the whole of the weekend's train fares. Every silver lining has a cloud.

But, hats off to First, Grand Central, South-west Trains, and Transport for London for providing me with an enjoyable trouble-free weekend away at affordable prices.

03 December 2008

Visiting the US? It's getting more difficult

After 29th January 2009 if a UK citizen wants to apply for a Visa Waiver to visit the USA, he or she will have to fill in an online application form. No other method is available. Whilst this poses no particular hardship to those of us who are enjoy the benefits of the Internet, it is estimated that about 43% of the UK population do not enjoy access to the Web.

When asked the US Embassy about provisions for those not online it replied, "contact a friend, family member, colleague or travel agent who is online." 

Gee! Thanks guys!

01 December 2008

Pleasure Triggers

My previous posting on this Blog listed a few of the things that were Irritation Triggers. 

My dear American friend Roberta (one of the three people who read this Blog) commented that I sounded a bit crabby, and perhaps it would be a good idea to list some of the things that give me pleasure. 

So, always ready to oblige, here are just a few of my Pleasure Triggers ...

  • Hearing my 6-year old grandson come out with a new long and complicated word.
  • Listening to said grandson declaring he's going to keep on asking his Dad to stop smoking.

  • Putting up Christmas lights inside and outside the house.
  • Switching them on and finding they all still work.
  • Forgetting that it won't be long before I have to take them all down again.

  • Americans' enthusiasm for their democratic processes.
  • The 2008 results of their enthusiasm.

  • Having some very good friends, both British and American

  • My wife's cooking.
  • Her willingness to keep on doing it.

  • My wife's love.
  • The fact that I'm still the recipient of it after 45 years.

  • Being with children who are happy to see me even when I'm bussing them to school.
  • The appreciation shown to me by their parents.

  • The sight, sound and smell of steam locomotives.
  • Travelling on trains, ancient and modern.

  • My son's sense of humour.
  • Watching my son giving devoted attention to his son.
  • Seeing it reciprocated by my grandson.

  • The beauty of my daughter-in-law.
  • Her good relationship with us.

  • Gazing at the orange and red hues of a winter sunset.
  • Watching George W Bush riding off into it.
Merry Christmas! (Oops - sorry - that's in irrigation trigger: premature Christmas)