What can we do? Where can we go?

“Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.

The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy, and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness, and lonely again. In other words grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do to something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you!”

Northland College (NZ) principal John Tapene quotes Judge Phillip B. Gilliam (Colorado, December 1959)

 

Your-Country-Needs-You-001

Nuclear dump threatens Lakes

The BMC are encouraging their membership to stand up be counted by signing the No Nuclear Dump In The Lake District e-petition. I’ve already done so, which is super easy to do, so please consider adding your name to help protect this…

Eskdale

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in our country, if not the world, and an environment enjoyed by many millions of people every year. Sellafield nuclear site, on the west coast, has been part of the Cumbrian economy for decades and nobody wants to harm that industry and the jobs it brings. However, the decision to explore the development of an underground store under the fells could be a disaster for tourism and the District. The government and local councils are pressing ahead with these plans, incentivised by a “community benefits package” for the area, against significant evidence [Nirex’s 1997 Refused Plans, Friends of the Earth, Cumbria’a unsuitability, Save our Lake District, Radiation Free Cumbria] about the areas unsuitability.

Stand up and be counted: sign the e-petition, and contact your MP! :angry:

Borrowdale Biking

The rock climbing and (mostly) the gardening meant we needed a rest day – our hands and backs were wrecked! Of course a rest day didn’t mean a day of idleness…

Past trips to Borrowdale (in the Eastern Fells) have been either quite chilly (f’in freezing) or ended in near benightment and tears. Today however, we enjoyed more of the glorious Spainish sunshine! 😛

A grey member of a herd of wild horses on Borrowdale
Laetitia on top of the long climb (walk) to near the summit of Breasthigh Road
with Kendal somewhere in the distance behind

On the second long climb up to the summit of Breasthigh Road we were over taken by a group of three Land Rovers crawling up the RUP. This sort of off-road driving has been banned on almost all of the Lakeland tracks, but Borrowdale is just outside the park so it continues here. It does look like great fun, and it’s really quite impressive how the Land Rovers cope with the massive (0.6m) drops and steps in the rocky track. But it’s also more than a little troubling how they churn up the loose ground! At one point on the descent to Borrow Beck the loosened rock, gravel, and stone on the track has been gouged out to create a channel perhaps 2 metres deep and as wide as a Land Rover. Not good.

I can see this track being closed to 4x4s soon if the National Park’s plans to extend their boundaries to include Borrowdale go ahead. Perhaps that’s a good thing?

Anyhow, we had our revenge. Mountain Bikes are way faster than 4x4s going down hill, I blasted past the three Land Rovers on the exciting descent. I could hear the CB broadcasting from the tail vehicle through the open windows of the lead vehicle as I went past, “… there’s a crazy biker on the grass to your left, watch out!”

The Ford of Borrow Beck with much of the winding descent track visible behind

The great Virgin Trains Rip-off ?

Should Richard Branson be such a revered figure of British industry? Well, if you consider being able to formulate a business plan that charges more for catching a train from Carlisle to London than flying from Manchester to New York a shrewd business model, yes, I suppose he should. If however, like me, you consider a £282 (standard) or an incredible £415 (first class) return rail fare for Carlisle to Euston a pure-and-simple rip-off, no! I’d rather see Virgin Trains and Richard Branson branded as the thieves they are.

To put this into perspective, here’s an example £348 flight from Manchester to New York…

OK, I know that’s hardly the same journey – comparing apples with pears and all that – so here’s a journey from Manchester to London, just £93 return! In other words, I could fly to London and come back again three times for the price of one standard fare on Virgin Trains!

And to think Virgin Trains have the audacity to attempt to portray themselves as “green” – a better option than driving. Huh! So how much does driving a car cost? Michelin’s site suggests £32.34 each way, maybe that doesn’t account for wear and tear on tyres etc. – so lets double it: the return journey then is just £129.

I wouldn’t mind quite so much if there was a choice – I can’t even vote against the Virgin Trains West Coast monopoly and take my business elsewhere, there is nowhere else. Herein is the problem, allow a private (for profit) company like Virgin to operate without competition and they charge what they like! Simply, there should either be public-sector (not for profit) public-transport services, or more than one competing private-sector operators, not a monopoly (especially on crucial lines like the West Coast mainline).

As a final thought, what about a Virgin Atlantic rip-off flight to New York? That’s just £1425… 😯 That kind of reinforces my point that it’s Richard Branson and Virgin that are ripping us off, i.e. it isn’t just a rail issue.

Hopefully this summary table helps to make my point without the angry words above:

Euston
Fly BMI Manchester – Heathrow £93 Cheapest
Car Carlisle – Euston £129  
Train Virgin Trains Carlisle – Euston £282 Most expensive
Train Virgin Trains Carlisle – Euston £415 First class
New York
Fly Delta Manchester – New York JFK £348  
Fly Virgin Atlantic Manchester – New York JFK £1425  

Do I recommend using Richard Branson’s Virgin services? No. Perhaps they’d be better renaming their website virgin.con? Of course the choice is yours to use Virgin Trains … oh wait, no they have a monopoly operating trains to London on the West Coast mainline don’t they!

:angry: :angry: :angry:

Broken Laws

When something is broken, what should be done about it?

For example, if an expensive watch has stopped telling the time do you a) throw it away, b) leave it to provide nothing more than a pretty but useless ornament, or c) have it fixed to fulfil it’s original purpose? Another example might be if a law to stop people driving without wearing seat-belts was flawed in some way should we a) repeal the law and allow everybody to go without wearing seat-belts, b) leave it as it is and allow some people to go on risking theirs and others lives, or c) amend the law to have everyone safely “clunk-clicking”? This later example was the case in late 2007; those ”engaged in making local rounds of deliveries” were exempt from being lawfully obliged to wear a seat-belt. This exemption needed to be fixed to make the law better and to save more lives, especially when one considers that many road accidents occur near to the home (local). And so it was by an amendment to the Draft Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 2005. 🙂

So in a brief – one time only – departure from the normal rules than ban politics from this blog, lets take a look at a current and topical issue… The ban on fox hunting with dogs. As the site’s editor I’m allowed to flex my own rules! 😉

So what of the Tory plans to repeal the law banning fox hunting with dogs should they be elected to government next year? This is probably what we might call a broken law – it’s extremely difficult to enforce because it’s just too easy for hunts to present that a fox was accidentally killed by their pack of hounds whilst engaged in a legal drag-hunt. Therefore the police simply don’t bother enforcing it. Although perhaps some of that lack of enforcement is because the police are fearful of the mighty land owning hunt management? However, there are likely other flaws too. So, what is the right option, a) repeal the law and go back to legalised hunting with dogs, b) leave it as it is and let a very vocal minority of hunt protagonists get away with “accidental” fox deaths, or c) fix the law?

I know which option I like, every time something – anything – is broken and I have the skill to fix it, my answer will be to fix it, not bin it.

I guess it comes down to what kind of society do we want. One that condemns blood sports, or one that condones them?

Fox Cub

So why does this issue simply refuse to go away? The hunts suggest all sorts of reasons, even the one above about it being an un-workable or broken law, but they also cite tradition… Sure, fox hunting is a fine old tradition – along with bear baiting, cock fighting, breaking badger’s jaws to give jack russels a fair fight, deporting children to Botany Bay, the rack, etc. That isn’t really it is it. Traditions come and go, and of course it takes a long time for them to do either. I’d suggest at least a lifetime. The time it takes for any change to take affect is really how long it takes for all those who can remember how “great things used to be” before something was changed (and made better) take to move on. For example, implementing a major new business process in a large organisation only really succeeds with lots of management buy-in and often (sadly) when some of the old-timers leave. If only I had £1 for every time I’ve heard the phrase “But, we’ve always done it like this”! Thing is, the only constant in life is change. So I feel that in the case of hunts, it’ll only be when some of the hunters pass-away that this change will finally find it’s way in to contemporary culture.

Almost everyone hates change to some extent, we are all human and like some sort of predictability, a constancy in our lives. It makes us feel safe.

Of course another side of traditions, like Xmas for example, is the social gathering. It must be great to meet your friends and go for a fantastic and adventurous, in that you don’t quite know where the chase might take you, ride across open country side! 😛 But does a fox have to risk being torn apart whilst still alive to provide that social and adventurous activity? In fact I’d argue that a well laid drag-hunt would provide a more exciting chase. What is more, that trail could be laid to take in to account the abilities of those on the meet and avoid unnecessary or dangerous obstacles. In other words, the actual horse riding and “treasure hunt” aspects of the meet could and should be better without a fox having to risk death.

A problem with the hunts is that they often come from wealthy and influential circles, allowing their vocal insistence to keep this topic in the headlines bear no relation to the size of their minority. Just look at the people supporting the hunts on the TV – not one of those people lives on a council or ex-council estate. According to a Mori poll, 77% of people are strongly against a repeal of the ban on fox hunting with dogs.

Do we live in a democracy? Well, I hope so, but to be honest sometimes I doubt it. All politicians are dubious people – just look at the cross-party scandal around MP’s expenses! So considering that the Tory party is a party from wealthy and influential origins, a repeal of this law (albeit somewhat broken and in need of repair) is just another example of a political ruling class taking it’s queues from it’s peers and not from the 77% of citizens who want to keep and fix it. How many of those 77% will be swayed in how they vote based on this issue? Probably none. 🙁

It’s sad that the environment always comes second isn’t it… :angry: