Wayland Woods

As less is sometimes more, here are a few photos from a wander in the woods today. There is definitely an autumnal feel in the air, however the countryside is still rich things to forage and spot. I even saw an owl gliding across the road on my way back to Norwich, too quick for a photo but always a spectacular sight.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit...I think...and a bit poisonous so not good forage

Jack-in-the-Pulpit…I think…and a bit poisonous so not good forage

After a hectic week at work a walk in the woods is always good for relaxation purposes, and I hadn’t been to Wayland Woods, near Watton, before. The woodland is allegedly where the ‘Babes in the Wood’ legend comes from; this involves murdered children and not some kind of carry-on episode. Perhaps this is why the forest is sometimes also known as the Wailing Woods…

Beech trees providing a glorious canopy

Beech trees providing a glorious canopy

The woodland dates back to the last ice age, and is recorded in the Doomsday book. The name Wayland Woods may also be derived from ‘Waneland’, the Viking name for a place of worship. Wandering around this vestige of ancient woodland it’s easy to imagine sprites and fey folk living there, although I think the ones I saw were probably just squirrels eating the abundance of hazelnuts.

The wood has been managed for centuries as a Hazel coppice, however there are a lots of other trees to see including oak and ash, beech and birch, and a several others I didn’t immediately recognise. With coppicing you get some areas that have been recently cut back, providing hazel poles for various purposes including preventing river bank erosion, and other areas where the hazel is dense, the light is shut out, shadows linger, and sound is muted. In these quieter spots it’s easier to imagine the Babes in the Woods legend might be true.

Nature provides a mini swimming pool, or drinking bowl

Nature provides a mini swimming pool, or drinking bowl

The woodland is smaller than I thought it wood be, and probably once covered a far greater area. We need to do all we can to preserve these last remaining areas of ancient woodland, to help maintain biodiversity, and to offer quiet spots for a relaxing walk. Wayland Woods has recharged my batteries ready for the week ahead, after which I should have the opportunity for a few days off here and there, and perhaps a few mini cycling adventures.

Up North of the border

After a hectic first two-thirds of the year holiday time has finally arrived, and I’m spending a week with family up North.

Melfort Village

Melfort Village

We’re staying on the shores of Loch Melfort, a peaceful and beautiful spot just south of Oban, on the west coast of Scotland.

Mussel Bay - Loch Melfort

Mussel Bay – Loch Melfort

The waters of the loch are¬†slightly bracing even in the height of summer, but were still enjoyable for a swim today, once I’d made it out past all the seaweed; mostly bladderwrack. There were a few seals bobbing about, along with cormorants – or they could have been shags, and duty seagulls.

We made stone towers, and my niece and nephew fished for crabs.

Mussel Bay - stone tower

Mussel Bay – stone tower

I’ve visited a lot of the area before, both on my 2013 cycle tour around the coast of Britain, and on previous holidays. Something about the West coast of Scotland keeps me coming back for more; it was certainly one of the best bits of my cycle tour. It was nice to visit the Tigh-An-Truish Inn for lunch with Dad on Monday, crossing the Bridge over the Atlantic to Seil Island.

After lunch I walked 10 miles back over the hills to Melfort, taking in various sights and sounds along the way, and avoiding sheep wherever possible.

It was a very peaceful walk and relatively easy-going, especially since the weather is good this week. Apparently it rained all last week so we’ve struck it lucky. I only met one other person walking the other way, accompanied by their dog who obviously thought everything was brilliant. That’s one of the great things about this part of the world, lack of crowds!

After making it over the hills to Degnish, there followed a stroll down the road next to the loch back to Melfort. I’d forgotten it was quite a long road, with a fair few hills, however beer was waiting at the other end and the scenery was lovely; lots of buzzards soaring about too.

Yesterday it was all about the beavers! Although I didn’t actually see any as they’re not so active during the day. There’s a Scottish Beaver Trial, now ended, in Knapdale Forest. The beavers are still there, awaiting a decision on their fate from the Scottish Parliament. Hopefully they won’t be evicted as they’re a keystone species that bring with them a lot of benefits for other flora and fauna. They’re also very cool creatures, and I’m wondering if I can sneak some back to Norfolk.

 

To finish the day off we visited the small port of Crinan, at one end of the Crinan canal, which bisects the peninsula.

Still got a couple of days left before I head back to Norfolk. Might have to search out some Sea Eagles, or perhaps wild haggis! I might visit Oban again and see if I can find the Otter I spotted playing in the harbour there other day. Lots to do hereūüôā

 

Troll Hunting

I was going to write a blog with some post referendum thoughts. Some musings on how we have to be careful we don’t make the decline of the UK, recession and doom a self-fulfilling prophecy, and commenting on the general air of insanity, panic, vitriol and political nonsense that seems to have gripped the nation recently…

…but it’s my birthday and I want to focus on happier things.

After work today I went for a pedal through the Norfolk countryside, enjoying the sunshine, nature, smells of summer and mental freedom elicited through just going for a bike ride. Sometimes it’s nice to let your imagination run wild, and regress to a child-like state-of-mind, something us adults probably don’t do enough.

It’s amazing how your sense of smell can evoke such powerful memories. Today the smell of recently cut grass took me back to seemingly endless childhood summers, helping in the garden, exploring the countryside and going on adventures, or just lying in the sunshine and spending time with family. A wonderful period of life¬†that was, of course, taken for granted at the time, but which truly were¬†the¬†moments¬†when you were most free, as a child, with none of the burdens of adult life and responsibility.

So for a couple of hours this evening I left my adult mind behind, and entered the world of pretend. I stopped worrying about anything else and lived in the moment, letting my imagination do whatever it wanted too.

It’s a liberating feeling, and something I find easier to do when pedalling. Something about the motion of the bike, combined with mild exercise and being out in the countryside helps you enter a somewhat meditative state. You can let you mind relax, take some deep breaths and try to switch your head¬†from rushing from one task to the next, to a more creative and playful place. The feelings of stress that can build up over the day or week just vanish.

So if you get the chance, go and have some play-time, and hunt some trolls. With all the mental health issues going on at the moment, maybe that’s what everyone needs.

Caveat: No trolls were harmed in the making of this blog, and any inferences to anti-social or violent troll behaviour is purely speculative. I’m sure most trolls are very nice, once you get to know them.

 

 

The UK and Europe. What’s next?

Waking up on Friday morning to see 52% of the population had voted to leave the EU came as a shock, leaving me with feelings of disbelief, anger and sadness. This is the biggest peacetime decision to impact the United Kingdom since the end of the Second World War, as far as the consequences¬†are concerned. Many voters appear to have made their decision to vote ‘leave’ based on wanting to stick two fingers up at the establishment, or concerns about immigration. I can sympathise with the first, given most people despair of our politicians, or are completely disenfranchised with Westminster; something needs to change. On the second,¬†I can see why people worry about ‘how crowded the UK is becoming and the strain of our infrastructure’, but think we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, and encouraged a dangerous and growing trend in xenophobia; thankfully the great majority of the UK population, on both sides of the vote, are by no means racist, and pretty level headed¬†most of the time (just don’t push them too far).

It’s clear we’re in for several difficult years, and that we’re all going to have to work very hard to make it a success. Hopefully it can work and I’ve some thoughts on that later on, so if you want to get to the positive bits you might want to skip the next section.

The ranty bit
It’s clear there have been lies, disinformation and false propaganda spread by both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaigns. Only now are the mainstream media and politicians starting to talk straight about what could happen, and what the actual facts are where they’re known. I acknowledge there were a number of experts¬†who did talk sense beforehand, but they¬†were unfortunately ignored or overlooked by most.

It’s sickening seeing Leave campaigners now back-tracking on statements they made prior to the referendum. I don’t think I need to go into detail as it’s easy to find, and I’m trying to limit the length of this post as it appears most folks aren’t willing to commit time to reading lengthy articles which might actually contain sound reason and factual content; I failed on limiting the length of this post by the way.

It’s massively frustrating seeing some Leave voters now wishing they hadn’t voted that way, as they hadn’t really understood the consequences beforehand. Or saying they’d never thought the Leave vote would actually win. I can’t blame a lot of them as it’s a really complex issue on which, I believe, there should never have been a referendum, and on which there has been so much spin.

It’s disheartening seeing people think that all the red tape is now going to be slashed, even though our own Government and Civil Service invented a lot of it. Do you really think things are going to get easier for UK businesses, both large and small?

Related to the above, on the red tape front, I’m concerned that a lot of the initiatives and rules put in place to combat climate change, protect nature, and improve the environment, for example air pollution action, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting endangered species and habitats, will now be scrapped or put on the back-burner, due to more pressing economic and social concerns; although I believe the environmental challenges we’re facing are still far more pressing that anything else.

I’m frustrated that people think this will reduce immigration, when in all likelihood it won’t, as we’ll still have immigration from outside the EU, and if we want to sign trade deals with European countries I’m sure we’ll have to sign up to freedom of movement. Not only that but I wonder how many Brits living abroad will need to, or be forced to, return to the UK now. That could run into the hundreds of thousands, which surely will put additional strain on our infrastructure.

It’s saddening hearing about a growing tide of racism and xenophobia in many places.¬†There are ¬†lots of stories about inflammatory remarks being made to people who have come here to live and work from the EU, or further afield, many of whom just want a normal life away from harm’s way, and who contribute positively to our economy and culture. Stories I’ve read about so far include remarks like ‘you best start packing…’, a banner promoting repatriation/deportation as well as stopping immigration, polish children in tears after comments made to them at school by other children, offensive graffiti and just general abuse over social media. There are a lot of scared people in this country at the moment, on both sides, and scared people are more likely to do extreme things. A small but dangerous segment of the population seem to see the referendum decision as giving legitimacy¬†for overt racism and abuse.

I’ve just bought a new house, and¬†thankfully been able to fix my interest rate for a couple of years, but am very worried that potential interest rate rises, brought about by us leaving the EU, could make it hard for me to afford my mortgage in future.¬†How on earth are young people going to stand a chance of getting on the housing-ladder if interest rates make it even more expensive; they’ll already be in massive debt if they’ve been through university anyway?

On the voting demographics front it’s sad that the younger generation, who are going to be impacted most by the changes, and who voted for the most part to Remain, are going to have to live with the implications for a lot longer than the older generation, a lot of whom voted to Leave, and who in many cases are comfortably well off with little to worry about on the pension or housing front.

It’s barmy that people in Wales, and other regions who received a lot of EU funding, are now saying there mustn’t be any cuts in grants, when many of them voted to Leave. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work that way; you can’t have it both ways and I suspect the government won’t be able to assign replacement¬†funding¬†as they’ll be too busy stopping the UK going bust. It’s a real shame a lot of the regeneration is now under threat. It’s also a shame that many people in these areas voted Leave on the basis of seeing ‘too many immigrants’ living on their doorstep, when I read earlier that the opposite is the case, madness.

I need to check this, but it appears the UK may have already slipped from being the 5th largest economy, to being the 6th, due to the pound sliding. There are also jitters around us losing our triple A credit rating, which will impact our ability to borrow money cheaply. This in turn could impact the very people who voted to Leave, with cuts to public services and taxes going up. The well off, such as many of the people who run the country, won’t be affected; again, shot ourselves in the foot.

I’m hoping this doesn’t happen, but we could well see the cost of imported goods rise due to changes in the exchange rate, as well as tariffs being imposed. This could lead to food price increases which will hit harder on people already vulnerable to changes brought about by an EU exit. Personally I think food is too cheap anyway, but that’s because of unsustainable or damaging farming practices; I’d rather food prices went up because of improvements in that area, and not because of leaving the EU.

It’s sad that a lot of businesses, both small and large,¬†will probably be adversely impacted by the changes. There may be tariffs to contend with for exporting goods abroad. Borrowing money to start or expand your business could get harder if investors pull out of the UK; some already are. Unemployment could rise as a result, especially if some multi-national companies, for example¬†financial institutions, decide to move elsewhere.

It’s slightly ironic that the banks and investment companies who have been blamed for so much in recent times, and to be fair did make a lot of mistakes, are now so critical to the future success of this country. London is the financial centre of Europe, but will it continue to be so once the UK exits the EU? You can blame the bankers all you want, but at the end of the day they employ thousands, and make a lot of money for this country.

Then there’s what’s going to happen to the UK. Scotland wants another referendum on their independence, and it seems likely the vote leave side will win this time, despite concerns about where their money will come from with oil prices being low. One wonders if Wales will start considering the same; personally think that’s unlikely but who knows.

The EU itself may be doomed, as more countries consider leaving to follow their own path. The UK referendum result has strengthened the position of many Leave campaigns in other countries, and unfortunately given legitimacy to views on the far right of politics, such as the National Front in France under Marine le Pen. It feels like a backwards step for Europe and the rest of the world, with barriers being put up instead of taken down, and the risk that we slip into more dangerous times (see Brexit Bomb blog¬†if you want really dire predictions). I’ve had a few European friends contact me asking what’s going on, with sentiments of confusion and shock at the decision we’ve taken. It’s uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing, but I’ll continue to build bridges wherever possible and they’ll stay on my Christmas card list!

There’s been a lot of talk from many of the younger generation about quitting¬†the UK and seeking opportunities abroad, and I can’t say I blame them. I personally think there won’t be much of an impact from this, but it’s sad that many are at least considering it; we could end up losing good people. It’s also more likely that less people will want to come to the UK, so we won’t benefit from the skills, economic boost, ¬†labour force, and socially enriching cultures they bring with them.

And what are we left with? Some dodgy politicians who lie, change sides for their own political ends, are completely out of touch with the general populace, and who in some cases have racist overtones. Brilliant! Watching the news programmes today most of them still can’t give a straight answer to a question; do they know how irritating that is? One thing for Farage; at least he does give straight answers, even if I don’t believe them.

So what’s next?
One thing I’m not going to do, and I’m sure a lot of us aren’t going to do, including many on the Leave side of the vote who’ve seen just how rubbish a lot of our so-called leaders are, is keep quiet about this. The¬†‘silent majority’, a lot of whom are middle class hard workers trying to earn a decent living and support their families, should speak up more often, or stop moaning about how politicians aren’t in touch with their constituencies. We’re all encouraged to keep working hard, pay our taxes, take a family holiday and distract ourselves from real issues by prioritising the X Factor, football or celebrity gossip in the tabloids. If we want things to change we’ve got to make sure our elected representatives know we want things to change. I’m going to get on with trying to make things work, but I’m not going to shut up as some people seem to want us to do. Not speaking out when you think something is wrong has caused very bad things to happen in the past, just look at the history books. We’re good in this country at resolving issues via debate and reason, so there’s no need for violence, but make sure you don’t just tow the line and keep quiet when you see ignorance, racism, lies, or just a breakdown in common sense, causing problems. We’ve all a duty to speak up, and the Leave decision is not a mandate for allowing racism and xenophobia to spread; it’s truly distressing hearing some of the media reports about what some people are doing or saying to foreign nationals in this country.

As I mentioned earlier I’m particularly concerned that a lot of environmental issues will be sidelined now, and green initiatives shelved because of money. ‘Red tape’ introduced for very good reasons to protect the environment, endangered habitats and species,¬†might¬†be slashed. I’ll continue to write to my MP, sign petitions and support organisations such as Friends of the Earth, the World Wildlife Fund, and Green Peace to make sure that doesn’t happen. I hope everyone else will do the same on issues they feel passionate about, and to hold their elected representatives accountable. Don’t keep quiet, speak up!

 

Personally I think talk of a second referendum isn’t very constructive; I’m pretty it’s not going¬†to happen. What we can do is use the upsurge in interest in politics to demand electoral reform in whatever form that may take, and to demand that our politicians listen and take us more seriously. I’d love it if we could prosecute them for proven instances¬†of deliberately misinforming the public, as appears to be the case with some of the statements made in the referendum campaigns; e.g pictures on buses saying they’ll spend ¬£350m a week on the NHS instead.

 

We can try to keep the UK together, and convince our countrymen in Scotland to stay with us should there be another referendum. I know it’s tempting to wish them all the very best, and to think about moving up there should they vote out and apply to rejoin the EU (I’m tempted, love Scotland), but the break up of the UK would be yet another backwards step for humanity, leading to more barriers and complications; all arguments that have been made before. As an aside, and not really supporting the case for Scotland remaining part of the UK, if Scotland does leave the UK they do have an opportunity perhaps to take over from London as the English-speaking financial centre of Europe. This could significantly boost their income and allow them to stand on their own two feet. They already have a lot of expertise in that area, and who knows, if London does disappear beneath the waves due to Climate Change perhaps a move to Edinburgh would be a good thing; although not sure Edinburgh is actually much higher than London…sorry for the tangent.

To help keep the UK together, and above water (no pun intended), we need to get off on a firm footing as far as the economy goes. So we’ve all got to keep working hard and looking for new opportunities for growth and stability. Keeping in contact with European partners, suppliers, customers and friends seems vital for this, as does¬†reassuring them we’re not all crazy and really do want to keep trading with them. I don’t buy that we can just increase trade with other parts of the world; hopefully we can, but the fact is you’re more likely to trade with countries closer to you, due to transport costs and similar preferences. On the London being the financial centre of Europe front, hopefully we can diversify outside the EU to present new opportunities to foreign investors looking for somewhere to put their cash; not sure how this would work without introducing dodgy tax breaks but worth thinking about.

We need to get new trade agreements¬†set up, build not break, and try not to take 10 years about it; some experts have suggested it might take that long to sort out new deals, and I’m not sure what will be left of our economy if we wait that long. We do have a strong economy, and many world leaders have said they want to continue to trade with us, so we need to use that to establish¬†practical and worthwhile¬†agreements. We’re a huge market for foreign¬†companies¬†who want to export goods abroad, not the size of the EU but still huge. Looking ahead if we can prove that this will work, with¬†deals that¬†benefit all parties in that agreement, then maybe other countries will follow suit and we can set up a new trade organisation, based on principles of free trade but¬†without the rules that have¬†irritated so many, and caused alleged problems, since we joined the EU; please can we keep the rules helping to protect the environment though. We’re going to need to some good politicians and negotiators to get these agreements set up, so I’m hoping people will continue to vote and speak up when the right deal isn’t being made, bad decisions are taken, or common sense fails. The demise of the EU might turn out not to be a bad thing if we can create something new and improved out of the ashes, with the UK as a founding member; that could be really exciting.

 

Lastly, on the keeping together front, we need to keep embracing our cultural diversity and welcoming people of other nationalities to our country to live and work, so we in turn will be welcomed in their countries to do the same. Having seen so much of Europe last year, and met so many great people, I know we’re all fundamentally the same and have so much to offer one another. We’re still all European, and a break down of relations if xenophobia and racism increase would only take us in a bad direction. If you don’t know your neighbour and are nervous because you’ve heard them speak another language, go and talk to them, pretty sure you’ll find out they’re nice people with very similar motivations to you.

So I think there’s hope, but we’re going to have to work really hard to make it work, and in the short-term (next 10 years) it’s going to be difficult. There are also lots of risks which could impact this,¬†as should be evident from the above; one for those risks is people not really wanting to make it work, either because they’re British and p*ssed off with the direction taken, or European and wanting to make Britain pay – yes, people can be that petty.

One thing for sure, it’s going to be a very interesting next few months and years, and in any case, we’re all going to have to make big changes soon to react to the impacts of climate change, so one way or another the future isn’t certain. A cabin in the woods in Canada still seems quite an attractive proposition to me!

Soon I’ll get back to blogging about adventures and stuff, promise.

 

The Brexit Bomb

The following story is a work of fiction. I thought it would be interesting to think about what the UK, Europe and wider world could look like in a few years time. Who’s to say what will actually happen, it’s very hard to predict with any degree of accuracy, however I do know that within my circle of friends and peers there is a very real fear surrounding the consequences of leaving the EU. I hope at the very least this ‘story’ provokes people already decided on¬†voting to leave, into considering an alternative viewpoint. I hope the events described below don’t come to pass. I’m not scare-mongering, just considering consequences, and writing a story. I wish more people would consider consequences, based on actual research and not unfounded fears of what might happen, or what’s causing alleged issues in our country today.

The Brexit Bomb
It’s cold. And dark. The roads are clogged up with slush again, stained brown by¬†the polluted air. At least we don’t have to worry about global warming any more, that’s one positive, if you can call anything positive that’s happened over the last few years. I’m pretty sure we’re also in the clear on excess immigration, not many people want to move here now, of those that are left anyway. I’d laugh, but it hurts.

Whoever decided to give the UK populace a referendum on leaving the EU should be locked up and the key thrown away. We were no way qualified to make such a decision. Isn’t that what we elected members of parliament to do, advised by ranks of actual experts? I don’t think we can lock them up anyway; think they bought it when the Houses of Parliament burnt to the ground in the riots of 2018.

The referendum did one good thing. It actually got people out voting, and certainly got people interested in politics for a little while. Unfortunately the media and certain politicians spouting nonsense, on both sides of the argument, left voters believing things that simply weren’t true, or with an ill-informed and skewed view of reality.

Looking out of the window now I can see a small group of children playing under the skeletons of long dead trees. They’re young, hungry, and will probably only live into their thirties. They’ve never known anything different. I wonder which way their grandparents voted and if they had the slightest inkling of the path they were leading us down.

Voting day seemed to arrive quickly after months of speculation, with the Leave and Remain campaigns trying to sway the proletariat one way or the other. The polls were roughly even, with no-one knowing which way things would go. Politicians, leaders of commerce, historians, scientists, Nobel prize winners, and leaders of other countries had all voiced their opinions one way or the other. To this day I don’t know why a lot of folks ignored the statements being made on the risks of leaving the EU. These statements were made by highly educated, well-respected and experienced individuals. People instead chose to believe certain tabloid newspapers run by narcissistic idiots¬†only interested in their own agendas, as well as unhinged politicians or public figures spouting badly if at all researched nonsense that only served to play on people’s fears, identifying the wrong causes for alleged problems.

I do wonder if things would have been any different if the vote had gone the other way. I suppose we’ll never know.

We woke up on 24 June 2016, in my moderately sized family home in Derbyshire, to the news that Britain had voted to leave the EU. It wasn’t even that close a vote in the end, with 59% of people voting to leave. It makes me furious¬†even now to think how stupid we all were. I say we all were, as even if you voted to remain in the EU you probably bear some responsibility for not calling to account the voices lying about why we should leave, or doing more to assuage the fears of those voting to leave, or undecided up until the last-minute.

Writing this is giving me a headache, and unfortunately I think I’ve run out of medicine. Medicine and food, along with a whole host of other things including clean water, is in short supply these days. The regional government is doing it’s best, but there really aren’t that many options when your growing season is limited, and anything you do produce is likely to be contaminated. We hear stories that other countries might be doing a bit better, but comms are limited and even if they could help they’re unlikely to want to, seeing as we were the butterfly that casually flapped it’s wings, setting off a whole chain of catastrophic events.

To begin with the Leavers celebrated, and even those who voted to Remain were carried along¬†in the tide of euphoria that swept the country. There was a feeling that maybe things would be better now, after all 59% of the population couldn’t all be wrong could they? We’d get back control of our country, reduce immigration, give our businesses more¬†chance to thrive, get rid of all those petty rules made by EU bureaucrats, rules that had no place in the UK, etc etc

Unfortunately that kind of relied on our own government being clever, and the arguments for leaving the EU being true. It turns out they weren’t, and the euphoria was pretty short-lived.

Other countries even jumped on the bandwagon carrying out their own EU exit referendums, with the Netherlands quickly voting to leave, and several others on the borderline. The big shock was Germany voting to leave a year and a half later, as a wave of nationalism swept the country in the wake of the migrant crisis. The death knell for the EU was surely sounding.

Before all that things almost immediately started to go wrong for the UK. We still had a couple of years before we actually left the EU, as it would take ages to disentangle ourselves, but investors began to pull out of UK businesses straight away, deeming it too risky in an already shaky global economy. ¬†The pound started to slide, which in theory could¬†have increased our exports, but our manufacturing industry wasn’t exactly what it had been. London, the once financial centre of the world, was relegated down into the doldrums as the markets and money moved elsewhere. To be fair our politicians tried their damnedest to get us new and improved trade deals, and to capitalise on our new-found ‘freedom’ in a whole host of other areas, but it just didn’t work, as the principles we’d voted to leave on were wrong. It took us quite a long time to realise we were completely stuffed, and by that time it was too late as we’d actually left. I don’t think we could have stayed in anyway as the Prime Minister had promised to abide by the referendum decision.

This water really does taste quite disgusting with the puritabs in it. Still, it’s better than the water they’ve got over in East Anglia; hardly anyone lives there now after the wind blew the toxic clouds in. We keep hoping things will get better again, but I have to admit I’ve been feeling low recently, especially after the flu swept through the city taking many of the young, old or infirm in its wake. We just don’t have the support services anymore.

Where was I? Ah yes, the economy crashed and we entered another recession. We tried to make more trade deals, and did so but had to sign up to freedom of movement within the EU, and compliance with lots of other rules around manufacturing and worker’s rights; the latter was probably a good thing the rate the government was going. In fact we were forced to abide by most of the rules we’d been party to before. People said we should have traded outside the EU more, but it’s simple question of geography; you trade more with countries closer to you.

As we were locked into lots of EU rules anyway, immigration didn’t change, not in the shorter term. To be honest I’m not sure it would have changed even if our politicians had done a better job, as at least 50%¬†of immigrants came from outside the UK in the first place. It was lucky we still had immigration as we relied on a lot EU workers to prop up our crumbling economy, and key services like the NHS. That changed in the longer term though, as the pound continued to slide and things got worse, making Britain a pretty unattractive place to move to.

After we left Scotland held another referendum on their independence, citing that even though economically there was a risk, as North Sea oil revenues were low, they would still be better off in the EU. This time they were successful and quickly exited the UK. Wales started to consider doing the same but never really got the chance. There was talk of the North of England wanting out, and the black flag of Cornwall flying again. The UK was dying, and we considered emigrating to Scotland to try to escape the worst of the recession, and ensuing madness as people got desperate, and eventually really desperate.

Taxes rose, austerity policies continued. The UK’s credit rating dropped meaning the cost of borrowing increased, and in some cases people would no longer lend to us.¬†The government cut back on all spending on environmentally responsible initiatives, something they could do without EU restrictions. This caused a lot of upset amongst the Greens, but to ¬†be honest everyone was too pre-occupied by other worries to pay much attention to the dangers of climate change. Inflation rose along with unemployment and discontent, with extremist and right wings views becoming mainstream as people looked for someone else to blame.

Things got really bad in 2021, with mass riots and violence on the streets. Some towns and cities turn into war zones as rival communities from different ethnic backgrounds kicked off against each other. London was largely spared until the autumn of 2021, but then the touch-paper was lit when someone discovered that allegedly some Tory ministers were embezzling public funds. That’s when the Houses of Parliament burnt down and many were killed before order was restored. Martial law was enacted in several areas after that, until things calmed down. No-one really seems to know what happened to the Royal Family, but they’ve disappeared.

And what was going on in Europe whilst the UK was committing suicide? Things weren’t a lot better there. With the EU destabilised Russia took its chances. They’d already annexed the Crimea and large swathes of Ukraine, and now marched into Latvia, threatening to continue into Lithuania and Belarus. Lack of coherency in the EU made a response slow and indecisive. NATO wanted to act, especially under the steering hand of President Trump and the United States, but the threat of nuclear retaliation by the Kremlin stalled any action. There were also rumours surfacing, which were mostly put down to conspiracy theories, that there was a Russian mole in the UK government, in a position of some significance. Some people claimed the mole had been behind much of the Leave campaign, steered in the background by Russia, and that even now they were continuing to cause confusion and spread lies, leading to an ineffectual UK, or should we say England.

In hindsight it would have been better just to leave Russia¬†to it, not that what was left of the UK had much choice in the matter. In the end Trump acted without the full consent of NATO, moving US Naval vessels and an aircraft carrier into the Baltic. It’s still unclear exactly what happened, but things rapidly went from warm to hot, with a nuclear device taking out the US fleet. Russia claimed it was the action of a rogue commander, which no-one really believed. Europe dithered, but Trump didn’t launching a retaliatory strike. Before people finally saw sense several nuclear explosions had gone off, both in Europe, Russia and the US, with huge numbers of casualties on both sides. President Trump was killed in the exchange, and the US is now facing its own unity challenges, but news is so scarce from that side of the Atlantic, at least publicly, who knows what’s really going on.

That was all several¬†years ago now, but we’re still locked in a nuclear winter with little respite, even though no nuclear weapons actually detonated on the UK mainland. Plenty of people have died anyway was a result of the fallout, further civil unrest, famine and disease, but I think we’re better off than a lot.

I’m tired, really tired, and sick. I’ve lost most of my hair now, and think the cancer has spread. You’d have hoped that over the course of centuries humanity would have learned from its mistakes, and become slightly more sophisticated in its thinking, but it seems we’re doomed to failure again and again. Hopefully anyone reading this in the future might learn something from it, and who knows, we might evolve yet. For now I’m opting out, I’ve had enough…over and out world.

THE END

That was a bit depressing, but one has to ask is it that far-fetched? I think I’ll go and read up a bit more on the pros and cons on both sides of the argument. I hope everyone else does too, seeing as we’ve been granted the responsibility of deciding our own fate.

 

May Day Bluebells and a modern day mystery

Come Spring and May Day every year I undertake a pilgrimage of sorts, along with thousands of others, to enjoy one of nature’s finest gifts; a woodland landscape carpeted in Bluebells. There’s nothing quite like seeing the forest floor come alive with¬†violet-blue flowers,¬†whose¬†sweet smell tantalize your olfactory sense.

This year I took a trip up to Foxley Wood, just up the road from me in Norfolk, which is famous for its Bluebells and consequently busiest in late April and early May. It’s still a big enough wood to try to get lost in though, whilst avoiding any trampling of flowers of course.

As soon a you start looking more closely one notices all sort of things hidden amongst the Bluebells, from buzzing bees laden with heavy pollen sacs, to lots of other insect life, and other wild flowers such as Celandines, Wood Anenomes, Stitchwort, Primroses, Wood Sorrel and rare orchids.

If you’re lucky and patient enough, I’m told you might even spot the odd faerie, especially around May Day, however pretty sure it’s a butterfly in the picture below. It’s easy to imagine faerie kingdoms nestling¬†amongst the gnarled trunks of some of the trees.

There’s still plenty of time to take in the Bluebells yourself, in a woodland near you; it’s a very good way of relaxing. The viewing season usually lasts until the end of May, however it started a bit earlier this year, no doubt due to a warm winter, so will probably end earlier as a result.

If you do go down to the woods, and take your dog, please don’t add to one of life’s modern-day mysteries. I prefer the old mysteries, like how were the pyramids built, or what was Stonehenge used for, or Atlantis. I really dislike the modern-day mystery of why some dog owners will bag up their dog poop, but then choose to throw it in a bush, or hang it, almost artfully in its plastic sack, from a tree…why?! Just…why?!

Cycle to work: Why pollute when you can pedal with a plethora of positives?

With the clocks changing I’ve had the opportunity for a few longer evening rides this week, altering my route home¬†from work to take in more of the Norfolk countryside. I’m really hoping the two glorious days we’ve just had aren’t the sum of our 2016 summer; fingers crossed there’s more good weather to come.

You have lots of time to ponder things whilst you’re pedalling peacefully past¬†pleasant panoramas. I’m sure the roads are getting busier, and the fumes from traffic¬†worse. It made me wonder yet again why more people don’t use a bicycle to get around? There are so many benefits that come from regular cycling, and using your bike to get around often doesn’t¬†take any longer that the same trip by car.

I start my day with a 7.5km ride to work, often with a break for a few minutes at a quiet spot to contemplate the day ahead and organise my thoughts.

Pause for thought on the way to work

Pause for thought on the way to work

Getting to work on my bike takes about 24 minutes. It could be quicker but I prefer to take a more roundabout route to avoid traffic and pollution on the inner ring road. Driving to work, which I very occasionally do, takes the same time or longer to cover a shorter distance, and leaves me feeling thoroughly wound up from sitting in traffic. I know I’m more used to cycling long distances, but it really doesn’t take very long to become accustomed to a self propelled method of transport.

A quick search on the Interweb has revealed that a few years ago the average commuting distance to work in England and Wales was around 15km. I’m not sure why Scotland didn’t get a mention, maybe Scottish commutes are convoluted due to other factors such as the threat of ambush by wild haggis. 15km, which is just over 9 miles, isn’t ¬†very far, and as that’s the average there are an awful lot of people who commute a far shorter distance.

I was trying to think of why people don’t¬†cycle to work, or even walk, instead¬†choosing to use their car instead. Maybe they don’t want to arrive at work a bit sweaty, or with helmet hair, or are scared of cycling due to bad driving. The first two are often easily solved as many work places now have showers you can use, and to be honest a 25 minute cycle doesn’t generate that much unpleasantness, especially during the winter months when it’s colder. If you’re worried about your hair, well…lucky you…a lot of people don’t have much, and frankly there are probably more important things to worry about.

I do however understand people who are nervous about cycling due to the amount of traffic, and bad driving, as it can be intimidating and scary if you’re not used to it. However the only way to overcome such fears is to give it a go and build up your confidence, with a bit of defensive cycling thrown in to make sure you’re seen and drivers don’t try something stupid. Incidentally I in no¬†way condone stupid cycling; riders should obey the rules of the road just like car drivers.

Maybe it’s better to focus on the benefits of using your bicycle, rather than what might put¬†you off. There are so many positives to getting on you bike and leaving the car behind. I’ve compiled a bit of a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of¬†the reasons to take up cycling, especially for that daily commute.

In no particular order…

  1. It’s actually faster ¬†okay, not all the time, and it depends on your route and the traffic, but that’s certainly the case with my morning ride to work. If you live in a town or city and drive to work you’re likely to be stationary for a lot of the trip, whereas on your bike your moving for much more of the journey. So you’re saving time by cycling!
  2. You can eat more –¬†this is one of my personal favourites as I love eating. Pedalling to work every day burns off several hundred calories, which I very much enjoy replacing with the occasional bacon roll, or cake off the tea trolley that comes around at 15.00 each day and which I have great trouble resisting. Guilt free eating really is a lot of fun, and quite handy around Easter time; busy consuming an egg as I write this.
  3. Lose weight ¬†it’s really easy to lose a few pounds each week through cycling. I struggle with this one slightly as I’m really into to benefit number 2, and keep having to add another few kilometres onto my evening ride to burn off that unexpected jaffa cake or sausage roll. If you have any sort of willpower you’ll find the pounds falling off. Also, after exercise your body will continue to burn fat at an increased rate for a short time, even after you’ve stopped pedalling, which has got to be a good thing when you’re tucking into a post ride doughnut.
  4. Be healthier – there are countless health benefits associated with cycling, from a better immune system, to increased brain power, as well as a healthier heart and lungs, better bowels and a reduced risk of cancer. Allegedly it can make you cleverer as well, due to increased blood flow to the brain and boosted hippocampus development, although I’m not convinced it’s had much of an impact on me; I’ll ask my colleagues at work, I’m sure they’ll be kind….maybe I’ll just skip that one. As a result a¬†bit of pedalling will also reduce the risk of degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimers. Finally cycling a decent distance each week can apparently also improve your sex life, although I suspect that really depends on your saddle; make sure you choose a good saddle, very important.
  5. Look younger and live longer –¬†cycling increases your circulation and thus delivers oxygen and important nutrients more effectively around your¬†body. Exercise of any sort also helps flush out toxins (it’s a good way of getting rid of a hangover). I just read that it can boost collagen production which helps reduce wrinkles and heal wounds, the latter being quite handy for me as I’m always banging my pedals against my¬†shins or calf muscles. You’ll also live longer due to all the points mentioned in 4.
  6. Be happier, and less stressed, sleep better and be less tired –¬†I’ve grouped these together as they often go hand in hand. Exercise of any kind releases endorphins which makes you happier. Time on your bike where you only need to focus on pedalling can reduce your stress levels, especially after a hard day in the office. A decent ride will tire you out so you’re more likely to sleep better, and exercise can actually wake you up which I find always helps in the morning.
  7. Less pollution an obvious one, as by cycling to work you’re not adding to exhaust fumes which do all sorts of bad things both to people’s health, as well as the environment. With climate change getting higher on everyone’s list of priorities this will become more and more important, especially after people read the latest predictions about sea level rises and the need to reduce emissions drastically. This is one of the most important benefits for me, as I’m getting quite sick of breathing in fumes and am very concerned over the dangers posed by fossil fuel burning induced climate change.¬†The more people who cycle the less pollution they’ll be, so get on your bike!
  8. Avoid pollution –¬†by taking the road less travelled to work, or using a cycle path if you’re lucky enough to have one, you’ll get to breathe in cleaner air. Even if you have to use main roads apparently you breathe in less fumes as a cyclist compared with a driver, which surprised me, but is down to being at the edge of the road and not directly behind an exhaust pipe.
  9. Encourage more cycle friendly routes – the more people who cycle the more there’s an argument for money to be spent on cycle paths and cycle friendly routes. This has got to be good for everyone as it’ll mean safer cycling, and fewer¬†cyclists on the roads ‘annoying’ drivers. Likewise the more people that cycle the more used to cyclists drivers should get, and the more tolerant they’ll be, hopefully.
  10. Less traffic Рin line with the above point more people cycling equals fewer cars, which in turn means fewer traffic jams and fewer accidents, as well as a reduced requirement for road mending, meaning everyone can go about their business more quickly and less angrily.
  11. Time to think – we lead such busy lives these days, often always connected to social media or otherwise contactable by phone or text. Putting your phone away and going for a pedal gives you time to contemplate whatever you need to contemplate. I often find myself entering an almost meditative state whilst cycling, and studies have shown it can increase your creativity. It’s also gives you a bit of playtime each day, and we don’t play enough these days; playing isn’t just for children!
  12. Increase your motivation – as with any exercise you’ll feel more motivated after going for a bike ride. Exercise can give you a bit of a high, which is one of the reasons people can get addicted to it. So pedalling to work should make you more productive at work, and more motivated to get off your backside at home and do those things you keep meaning to do, like go on adventures.
  13. Learn to appreciate the weather – Modern life means we’re often completely cut off from nature and the outdoors, shuffling from car to office to home and spending as little time as possible exposed to external elements. I don’t think humans were meant to be inside all the time. This is probably one of the reasons people get ill both mentally and physically, with more allergies and suchlike. If you cycle in all weathers you really love it when there’s¬†sunny and warm day, but likewise I have learned to embrace the rain; it can be a lot of fun splashing through puddles – that playtime thing again, try it. The only weather I don’t particularly get on with on a bike is the wind; headwinds can be soul destroying if they go for too long, and I have had a lot of arguments with whichever deity I blame at the time for sending a headwind my way; I mostly blame Loki.
  14. Better communities – in a car I don’t get to say hello to people, or exchange smiles and waves. In fact people are more likely to swear at fellow commuters when they’re driving, or give them ‘the bird’. Each morning on my bike I say hello to people walking or cycling the other way, generally the same people each day, and feel better for it. A smile given, and received in turn, can really make you feel better. You can make new friends too, who knows who you might meet!
  15. Improve in other sports – regular cycling builds muscle, makes you fitter aerobically, and is good for the joints, so it can really help with other sports you participate in. Although don’t assume it’ll make you a good runner. Running hurts. I don’t know how anyone really enjoys running, unless its over an obstacle course with lots of mud and rivers to jump in.
  16. Raise money for charity – a long cycle challenge can be an excellent way to raise money for your favourite charity, as I have discovered when raising money for the Big C. Just be careful what you agree to; might have accidentally said I thought a tandem bike ride from Cambridge to Norwich would be a good idea, really not sure it is but it’ll be fun whatever.

There are no doubt plenty of other benefits that are worthy of a mention. What do you think? Anything I’ve missed which you think is a real positive produced by pedalling?

I’ll finish with a few photo’s from my cycle home through the Norfolk countryside today. It was ‘bootiful’¬†and I saw my first Swallow of the year which seems a bit early, perhaps not?

And please consider using a bike rather than a car for your commute to work, or to take the kids to school. Got to be better for everyoneūüôā