Monthly Archives: March 2008

Update

It was a mixed weekend this week.

We were awoken at 05:15hrs on Saturday by a phone call. Unfortunately the number came up as unrecognised and the message left on my voicemail did not tell me where the person was calling from. So at 07:00hrs I drove to work to check my e-mails, as our home computer is dead.

Then we went out for lunch with the sister-in-law who was staying with us for a few days. I then left them to do “shopping” while I went off to watch the rugby with my dad. We witnessed a terrific display, in appalling conditions, by the Pontypool team. We beat Newbridge, our local rivals, 33-10 – but they were lucky to get 10.

The evening was spent with me dying on the settee before succombing to the dreaded lurgy and going to bed at half eight, feeling like a very dead dead thing, that had died and then been brought back to life and killed again.

Yesterday was spent with me in bed trying to recover sufficiently to enable me to go to work today. Thankfully it did, though I did finish reading the 430 page book that arrived on Saturday morning. FW had to take s-i-l to Chippenham for Father in Law to collect her and take her home. This meant that we missed the service at our chapel. This was being led by Vicotry Outreach, a local charity that helps ex-offenders and drug users. We’d been trying to meet them for almost a year and had been eagerly anticipating the service.

Political Fudge

As most of you will know, I work in the international transportation sector. We are the evil people who cause global warming, kill cute fluffy animals and cause the icecaps to melt very quickly. Without us the world would be a better place in which to live – however travel would be much harder and you wouldn’t be able to buy much in the shops.

Over the last 10 years environmental matters have become more and more important to our sector and society in general. We are held up as being the “bad guys” and, with the exception of 4×4 drivers and farting cattle, the major contributor to climate change.

I agree with my environmentalist chums that something needs to be done, and quickly. However we are not the only ones responsible for the situation. The biggest culprits are the people who supposedly make decisions on our behalf – the governments.

The EU is trying to force member states to allow 80m/t lorries, at 60ft+ in length, onto our roads. The Germansd have already said Nein but the UK Depratment of Transport seem to think it a good idea, as do some sections of the road haulage industry. In their minds it will mean fewer truck clogging up our already congested road network. There is a very bigf problem with this argument.

This assumes that all truck movements are 100% utilised. Unfortunately the current utilisation rate is only 60%. Therefore the majority of trucks moving around at any given time are not maximising their carbon efficiency in the way planned. The argument was also used previously when 45ft trailers were introduced onto our roads. They were to lead to fewer truck movements and a great utilisation of the national fleet.

In addition the government have set overly ambitious targets to reduce “greenhouse gasses” by a minimum of 20% by 2020 but have done little to achieve this. We should be looking at alternatives to road transport and diesel vehicles. The best alternative is rail but we do not have the capacity, or political will, to make the most of this.

Our rail network needs regular, prolonged investment to upgrade it for the 21st century. The problem is that it is too fragmented to do this. Priority is given solely to passenger traffic and freight is treated as the ugly sister of the industry. The investment could come from the private operators but the government will not allow them to do this – everything has to go through Network Rail and the government actually controls everything that happens.

The privatisation of British Rail was a complete balls-up by the Conservative government – yes, you did hear that correctly. Yet the mess they made was nothing compared to the mess made by the current government. What should be a privatised industry is actually controlled by civil servants who have no experience or idea of what running a railway entails.

Everything is now controlled directly from Whitehall, even down to the train lengths and timetables. The current problems on First Great Western (FGW) are not just the fault of the operator but also the government who told them what trains they could run, the no. of carriages and the type of train they could have. They cut the train lengths on the Cardiff to Portsmouth service that has caused uproar and forced FGW to reintroduce 3 carriage trains on the service.

The government don’t seem to want a modern rail network that can work to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. Network Rail (NR) want to plan for new High Speed links to be ready for 2020 but the government won’t let them. NR also want to introduce more electrification on the network, especially to Bristol on the Western route, but the government won’t let them.

There are former lines that could be reopened to ease congestion but the government doesn’t have the ambition to do this. They are happy to build more roads and introduce road pricing but not to invest sufficiently in providing alternatives to the car and truck. After all, the less vehicles on the road then the less tax income.

For Bimble

My love of trains was started from a very young age. I was born a few years before the demise of steam hauled trains and have a vague memory of them. I have a better memory of rushing to Caerleon in the 70’s to watch the King George V hurl past on one of its heritage runs.

The love for model railways comes thanks to my dad. I have many happy memories of the train set that was set up in the back bedroom. I remember my dad’s words even now: “Keep that boy out of this room!” Then we had to take it down upon the arrival of my sister to the family. A few years later a reduced layout was erected along the garage wall and I was allowed to spend endless hours looking fondly at the empty track. However I was known to use it when my dad was at work to transport soldiers from one end to the other. You always had to watch out because those pesky Germans would ambush the trains. What he didn’t know about couldn’t hurt me, could it – though it probably will now.

Now that the nephews have arrived, and we have a house of our own, my love of model railways has been revived. The aim now is get a small one up and running to provide them with entertain, other than the XBox and TV, when they come over. It also provides us with the opportunity to practice modelling skills for later.

When we are able we want to turn the rest of the upstairs into a large room with a permanent layout that will give me a hobby and something to enjoy with the nephews. We’ll also be able to get them interested in building the layout as well. They already enjoy the idea of helping us to build the small one.

So that’s the idea behind the model railway.

Restful Time

We have had a very good Easter. Like most others in the UK, we have seen sun, rain, hail and snow – usually in the space of 5 minutes of each other.

Friday was quite, except for FW having to work on Friday evening at her drug and alcohol home – I keep telling her to give them up but she won’t listen 😉

Saturday saw the arrival of Stroppy Boy for his stay with us. We took him out for his (late) birthday lunch and then off to buy his birthday present(s). He decided to buy some Lego Star Wars things to further his collection. He also bought Dasterdly & Mutley in Catch The Pigeon. When I say “he” I actually mean ME. Yes, I bought it for myself – I just love them.

In the evning he assisted in the construction of the baseboard for the small model railway that we’ll be building. Things didn’t go entirely to plan but he did help a lot. It wasn’t his fault that the glue didn’t hold or that some of the pins provided weren’t long enough.

Sunday saw us swapping over the boys and taking charge of Shouty Boy for his visit. We forgot that it was Easter Sunday, despite attending the service, and that all our usual eating establishments would be closed. We ended up at Pizza Hut – again!!! as Shouty said….

We went back to the house so that he could watch Die Another Day, which he insisted that he’d never seen before. I try falling asleep on the couch but kept being woken up at certain points until he finlly understood that Uncle T&E had really seen it too many times before and needed a nap!

We then settled down to an evening of FW and Shouty preparing tea and the watching an old Top Gear, of which he is now a fan, and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which he also enjoyed. I’d never read the book until Saturday and tried my best to finish it before the pragramme started but ended up with 20 unread pages. Thankfully the book is very, very good and the programme was different enough not to spoil things.

Yesterday Shouty proved his worth by helping FW to wash-up and sweep up before I emerged from my Monday morning bath/readfest. Then we took him to the local Community Farm for a “quiet” time with the animals. As you can guess, it was a typical Bank Holiday Monday and the place was crammed full of kids and parents.

For lunch he wanted a Hot dog so we took him to the local DIY shop. The burger van there does very, very good burgers and Hot Dogs. Then we took him home and went home for a Bank Holiday nap, during Ben Hur, before FW and I finished off the baseboard frame.

Easter Thought

Way back in the mists of time (about 2 months ago) I wrote about the deportation of a Ghanaian woman who was undergoing treatment for kidney failure. She had stayed beyond the time allowed by her student visa and had also been working illegally.

The UK government knew that by deporting her they were signing her death warrant, as she could not afford the treatment in her native land. Some kind hearted people did pay for her treatment on her return and others were still working to try to get the decision reversed.

Today we learnt that Ama Sumani has, at the age of 39, died. She was a widow and has left 2 children orphaned as a consequence.

The Archbishop of Wales has said that her death will be on Britain’s conscience. Unfortunately I think that he overestimates the conscience of the British people. There will be some who will stop and think but the vast majority, including our government and civil servants, just won’t even give her a second thought.

At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Saviour who taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves and to take care of the weak and vulnerable. We have a “socialist” government that is supposed to uphold those on the margins of society but really couldn’t give a toss about them, unless they need their votes. They promised us a government that would have “ethical” policies. Unfortunately “ethical” is not a well observed concept in political reality.

There are those who believe that every person who enters Britain from overseas is a parasite who should be forcibly removed at the first opportunity. They won’t care because it has stopped another outrsider spongeing off our over stretched health service. Britain for the British is their familiar refrain. They seem to forget that most Brits are in fact descended from immigrants or invaders.

I’m not advocating treating every person with an illness but suggesting that we really need to think compassionately before following policy through. Our so called “just society” is anything but that – even for those of us born here. Our government was not bothered about the 30,000+ who’ve been killed in Iraq, by their ill conceived invasion, so why would 1 more widow make them think?

This weekend we mourn the death of Jesus and then celebrate His resurrection. We have the hope that we too will be resurrected upon His return. Maybe we should reflect more on the judgement that will follow – some of us maybe in for a surprise at the verdict……

Continuing To Learn

After yesterday’s lesson in patience, today I am learning how not to respond like St Peter.

I’m sure that you all remember the arrest of Jesus and Peter’s response. Well that’s how I feel today. The problem is that we are no longer allowed to carry swords in order to smite people. Modern society has become too soft and liberal. I mean what is wrong with some old fashioned smiting?

Some would say that it is “health and safety gone mad!” Others would say that mankind has evolved to a more civilised state. Then we could claim that Jesus told Peter off for cutting off the ear of the servant. It wasn’t Peter’s fault that Jesus already knew the final plan for His earthly existence and the events that would follow.

Ok, so Jesus had been trying to ready the disciples for what would follow. Throughout the previous week He had been dropping hints but, being very human (and manly), they failed to understand what He had been saying to them. Being honest I would say that men tend to listen to about 10% of any conversation in which they are not interested. Talk about sport, women and drink and most men are all ears. Talk about kids, religion, feelings etc and most men switch off.

As I say to FW, there are times when she really needs to speak clearly and in words of 1 syllable, or less, if she wants me to pay attention. I mean there are so many distractions in modern life – sport, TV, newspapers and books – that others have to make it interesting in order to grab our full attention.

That is where I think God could be going wrong.

Whatever happened to burning bushes, thunder storms and other Old Testament forms of communication? Where are the angels that used to come and talk? Why are there no prophets roaming the earth anymore? Then again, seeing some of the fruitcakes that purport to have messages from God these days, would we actually recognise Him?

So why not smite a few people instead? Let’s go back to battles with false prophets; the drowning of armies; inflicting people with leprosy, that they’ll need to cure by bathing in selected rivers; even taking prophets up to heaven in chariots (better not be one that swing low and are sweet – they aren’t reliable). In this modern world we sometimes need things to stand out from everything going on around us.

Having said all that, I think that God is to wise not to do them. They didn’t work before, when times were simpler, so why would they work now?

Learning

Today I am learning patience. This is a virtue that I have, after 30 years of being a Christian, still not managed to gain. One of the things I find most difficulty with is being patient when dealing with people who are unable to comprehend things, no matter how many times that you explain things.

I have a work colleague who is often in a land far, far away from that in which everyone else lives. This makes it very frustrating when you have urgent things for them to do but hear them talking about old TV programmes, their friend’s private lives and sundry other non-related things.

Maybe it’s because I have always worked at a higher pace than many other people and have customers who do the same. My customers are usually very demanding and expect a fast and efficient service; as result I am the same. That is why they deal with me and my competitors.

I’m also finding ir frustrating working with overseas offices who lack the efficiency and drive that I expect. We have an agent in Spain who I have begun working with who operate at the pace of a tortoise on very, very strong medicine that makes them drowsy and unable to operate a computer.

In the past week they have quoted me for a job and then raised the price 3 times. So much so that I am only just managing to make any money on it. No matter what you say they will not budge and just threaten not to do the job unless you pay them what they want. I have also discovered that they are now trying to take this business by dealing direct with my customer – even though they don’t actually understand what is required to do the work.

So I am finding that God is still trying to teach my patience but I’m still struggling with the challenge. He wants me to be forgiving and gentle but I want to use missiles, artillery and blitzkreig tactics instead. If I feel like this then how much greater can the frustration be for God? He has had to deal with billions of humans who cause Him no end of frustration and anger. Yet, for some reason, He still has the patience to deal with and, more importantly, forgive us.

One day I hope that I’ll attain that patience for myself but I can’t honestly see it happening that quickly.

Ireland 5

The Sunday was a leisurely day for us. The aim had been to drive down to Cork for the day but we had to cancel this due to the weather and the fact that I was meeting a former member of my customer’s staff.

After meeting John we decided to set off for a local attraction instead. The winner was the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes. This is where Transatlantic air services originated. All services originated here with connecting flights, from nearby Shannon, to the UK. This was home to the Pan Am Atlantic Clipper service and Imperial Airways.

We watched a film of the history and development of Foynes from its recommendation by Charles Lindbergh as the base for Pan Am’s operation. This followed the development of the route and the problems encountered by the Brits to actually build a suitable plane to fulfill their commitments. Unfortunately passenger flights stopped shortly after WW2 because of the development of land based aircraft that could fly the route quicker. Then cargo flights finished in the 1950’s.

The highlight was being able to walk into a full size replica of the fuselge of a Boeing 314, Pan Am’s most successful aircraft. We also got to “fly” a 314 on a stimulator. Unfortunately FW crashed on landing but, somehow, this was my fault because of the instructions I gave her.

The evening was spent having a meal in a local pub. Unfortunately this was very rushed as the pub was closing as we arrived. The food was good but it’s hard to eat while the staff are clearing tables all around you. However I did get to watch the highlights of the weekend’s Hurling on the large TV.

The night was very stormy with rain and wind lashing at the hotel. When we got up on the Monday morning though the sun was out and the wind had died down. Our flight was on time leaving Shannon and arriving at East Midlands. However we’ve since found out that our neighbour was delayed by 20 hours that afternoon because of the weather.

Ireland 4

The BIG day of the weekend. Wales v Ireland with us chasing the Triple Crown and a first win at Croke Park. To say that I was excited seriously under describes my emotions.

We were going to watch the match in Clohessey’s Bar in central Limerick – a real sporting bar, owned by a former Irish international player with photos on the wall and 2 of his caps above the main door. We were expecting to be an island of red in a sea of emerald green.

The first person we saw at the bar was…. our next door neighbour. Yes, you walk into a bar, in a foreign land, 120 miles from where the match will be played and meet your neighbour. Then the bar beganto fill up. Red jersey after red jersey filed in and even a party in black Welsh jerseys from Merthyr were there. As was the Welsh Ladies team resplendent in red tops with skirts made from Welsh flags.

By kick off I had a seat right under the screen inthe centre of the bar. The Guinness was flowing like Mother’s Milk and the tension was building. Listening to several hundred Welsh people singing Land of My Fathers was a stirring sound. Then we had the Irish post anthem song, the name of which I know not, but, to the bemusement of the Irish nearby I sang along to and knew every word. Me singing: Ireland, Ireland/Together standing tall/Shoulder to shoulder/We’ll answer Ireland’s call – seemed to impress them though.

At one point I went to the bar for another Guinness and turned around to watch the screen from behind. The sight of all those Welsh jerseys actually left a lump in my throat and feeling of pride.

The rest is history really. We won!! They played badly but we seemed to know exactly what was needed and never really looked like losing.

FW left me after the match to wander around Limerick so I stayed to watch the England/Scotland match. To see the English lose just made the day even better.

The evening saw us relax in the hotel and just go to the bar for our meal. I think that the feeling of walking on air was still with me until I went to sleep.

Ireland 3

Friday morning saw my meeting with the customer. It was amazing that it had taken 8 years, an office move and a job with a new company in order to finally get to meet them. Let’s just say that things went very well and they are very happy with everything. So much so that they are recommending me to their customers as well.

The afternoon saw us taking the Alfa for a spin. I had been told that I had to trake the coast road to Galway to see how beautful it is. I must say that the initial journey couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, the countryside was green and verdent but the Irish roads leave a lot to be desired. Imagine a country road/lane with potholes every 20 yards. Now extend this for about 40 miles.

Then we stopped off for a late lunch but the pub didn’t take plastic and there was no cashpoint in town. Yes, it is that rural… However we did see where Burran Salmon was smoked. This is a very much sought after delicacy in Ireland. We were told that there was a cashpoint and a pub that took plastic in the next town – about 10 minutes away.

35 minutes later we got there. We went on some of the bleakest but most beautiful scenery you’ll see. Green fields and low hills gave way to steep hills and fields containing more limestone than grass. The roads got worse and narrower but you didn’t care when you saw the view. You could just see the sea before we dropped down into Ballyvaughan.

We stopped there for lunch in a lovely pub before carrying on. That’s when things changed again. So much that I have finally found somewhere other than Wales where I’d like to live.

The coast from Ballyvaughan to Galway was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Very rural, very quiet but with a mixture of limestone hills, green fields, small cottages and a superb shoreline. Mile after mile of breathtaking scenery rolled before us. I was sorry when the road rejoined the main road from Limerick to Galway.

God defnitely knew what he was doing when he created Ireland. It is second only to West Wales – that is anywhere West of Swansea 😉

Unfortunately the journey took a lot longer than we’d anticipated and we finally rolled into Galway at 5:30. We didn’t get to see as much as we’d hoped but it is a very good place to visit. And so we decided to take the dual carriageway back to Limerick. What had taken almost 4 hours (including lunch out) took an hour and a quarter back.

I’d recommend that anyone looking for a quiet holiday should try the west coast of Ireland. It is well worth it and cheap to get to with ******* from a whole host of UK airports. See it now before Global Warning takes hold.