Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

Alfred…A Great Guy!

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 1899 the Victorians marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Alfred the Great as the founder of England and saviour of its Christian faith.

In the BBC Millennium Poll of 2000, Alfred didn’t make it into the top ten list of greatest Britons.

Sometime during those one hundred years the British lost favour with her most revered son.

Alfred wasn’t called “great” for nothing. He is the only British king with the title.

So what happened between then and now to change our views, or if not change them, merely ignore his achievements? Perhaps it’s just too long ago?

Alfred did however make it into the top 100, along with such luminaries as David Beckham, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams and even Boy George.

I’ll pause at this point to allow you a gasp of astonishment…..

Some sense prevailed in the top ten. Winston Churchill came out at number one, followed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Horatio Nelson and, in 10th place, Oliver Cromwell.

Bearing in mind that the poll was conducted 16 years ago, it’s possible that the nation had an unhealthy dose of celebrity worship and collective amnesia.

It was only three years after the death of Diana; the country was still euphoric basking in the afterglow of a new labour victory, and the nation had yet to be embroiled in the war on terror.

Although Tony Blair didn’t make it into the top ten he did make it into the top 100. If the poll was taken today, it’s highly unlikely he (and many others) would get a look in. The highest ranked living person at the time was Margaret Thatcher, coming in at #16.

60 of the top 100 were alive during the 20th century. Hence the poll was severely flawed for it was indicative of contemporary individuals and populist history. Surely Alfred was greater than John Lennon? Indeed he was, but he died in the 9th century, and not the 20th; nor was he a famous singer/songwriter. Imagine that!

Twelve years after the poll, both Churchill and Brunel played prominent roles in the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics, and both coincidently topped the millennium poll of 2000, so perhaps there is some justice attached to it.

Back to Alfred the Great (those of you who have lost interest may leave now). Herewith follows a compact history lesson from a Bardy view:

When the Roman’s left Britain in AD 410, over 300 years of relative peace, stability and prosperity left along with them.

Her empire was under attack, Rome was in trouble and the legions needed to consolidate and attempt to fend off the vandals and barbarian hoards. For Britain, what followed was a period of substantial unrest, and is known today as the Dark Ages. It lasted for several hundred years, and England as we know it today did not exist. It became a place divided and ruled by feudal chiefs with a hotchpotch of kingdoms, the most powerful being Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.

Wessex was the most powerful, and during the rules of Egbert (802-839) and Aethelwulf (839-858) it expanded to include most of the land south of the River Thames, although not the Mercian controlled area of London. It was
during these periods that England was under constant raiding parties from the Vikings and Norsemen of Scandinavia.

In 865 the Vikings landed with force and within ten years subjugated the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. Wessex was the next in line.By this time Alfred’s elder brother Ethelred was King of Wessex, and together they confronted the invasion of Wessex in 871. But they failed to prevent the advance and during the battle Ethelred was killed. Wessex was the last surviving Anglo-Saxon domain, and if it fell, then the land would be completely ruled by the Vikings.

Alfred took the throne, and through bravery and intelligence, through methods of tactics and guerrilla warfare, eventually prevailed.

He became an honourable and wise king, uniting the kingdoms, constructing the country’s first navy, instigating law and order, and promoting education, with particular emphasis on the English language, art, culture, and successfully creating – out of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – the nation of England.

That’s why he is known as Alfred the Great.

Perhaps if a new poll is taken, he can take his rightful place along with Churchill, Elizabeth I, and Nelson as one of the nation’s top ten greatest Britons.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, Europe, History, London, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chewing the Cud over GMT and BST…..

CowVery soon I will give the hour back which I received 5 months ago. In seven months time I shall reclaim it.

I don’t know who is the beneficiary of my sixty minutes, nor do I know who returns it.

I do know that every year since the day I was born I have, with great philanthropy, parted with an essential essence of my life – my time – but comforted in the knowledge that I only permitted it’s borrowing on a short term loan.

I gave it free, without interest, yet if time was indeed money, I could have become very wealthy over the years had I charged for it.

After all, if I asked my bank manager for a loan he wouldn’t give it to me for free just because I promised to return it promptly after seven months. The difference of course is that my time is priceless, and although it is unique it has no monetary value.

I can invest it, I can spend it, I can save it and I can waste it. I cannot hold it. I cannot keep it. I cannot preserve it. It is gone in a moment – and lost in a memory.

I can think of nothing more valuable, more essential than time, yet it is not oil, not gold, not silver, not platinum. My time is more precious than metals and minerals, but it is all mine – every single second of it. It’s value is incalculable.

At 02.00 on the last Sunday of  March (as is always the case) I will say hello to British Summer Time, or on the last Sunday of October, return to the dark days of Greenwich Mean Time.

It’s an economic decision that I have no choice over. A few years ago the UK government considered the Daylight Savings Private Members Bill to abolish GMT and align the British Isles with CET (Central European Time), which would have meant more light at night and less light at morning. Longer summer evenings, and maybe an hour more light in winter resulting in longer darker mornings. It would have suited the more southern English, but not the northern Brits. In any event, the bill was rejected, and it’s not likely to reappear again for some time.

Any change in daylight saving policy won’t change the orbit of the earth, no more than it will stop the sun from rising and setting at inconvenient times for commerce and industry.

The cows in the fields will chew the cud regardless. The sheep will be fairly laid back and the pigs are unlikely to grunt in dissent. The cocks will continue to crow at dawn, and the chickens will lay their eggs without cracking up at the stupidity of it all.

The EU will be happy because everything will be standardised. But they tried that with the Euro and look what happened.

They can mess around with money. Surely we can’t allow them to mess around with the clocks as well?

I just don’t have the time for it.

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, General, History, Humour, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Baby Boomers…….

 

beatles

If you were born between 1946 and 1964 then you are officially a “baby boomer”.

You’re as old as 70 and as young as 52 – assuming you’re reading this in 2016.

Baby Boomer is the term used for the generation born during the 18 years after WWII, which by all accounts changed the world and has become responsible for all the ills of society.

The first batch of boomers heralded the age of the teenager and the swinging sixties. A sixteen year old born in 1946 would have sailed through the austere 1950’s, would have abandoned Bill Hailey and the Comets, Frank Sinatra and the balladeer crooners, rejected their parents hand-me-downs, and embraced 1962 with pop music and liberation. Cliff Richard and the Shadows were the face of the young and around the corner loomed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Even Elvis was getting old hat.

Their parents by contrast were the generation which suffered in the depressing thirties, and then went off to war.

Indeed their parents before them would have gone through the First World War, and they certainly would have had no concept of being a teenager – they would have left school at 12 or 14 and then went to work – there was no room for anything else.

By 1966 our hero or heroine – the subject of this post and first born boomer – would be 20 years old, fashion conscious, sexually liberated, rocking to Mick Jagger or rebelling along with Bob Dylan. Later he or she would have a good job, money in the pocket, and an access to university long denied from the forebears.

Their peers would have their minds and horizons broadened and take to the streets to protest about the Vietnam war, join CND and march to “Ban the Bomb”. They were the “have it all” generation. If they didn’t get great jobs, they would still get good jobs – jobs which they could secure for 35 years and retire comfortably.

Such was their opportunity; they bought houses, raised families, and became more affluent than any generation gone before. They went through a period of relative peace (in the UK at least), did not fight any wars, and were not conscripted for national service, and even the threat of nuclear Armageddon and cold war politics fazed them not.

Our twenty-year old pot-smoking hippy (who danced at Woodstock), became either a bog-standard pillar of the establishment or found his way into the echelons of society –  and if he didn’t become a captain of industry he took a seat in Parliament responsible for the very society he had fun to reject.

The mantra of Roger Daltry and the Who – Hope I die before I get old – was just a juvenile distraction.

Our first baby boomer has retired now. He has even escaped the austerity cuts and his pension is secure. His life was one of incredible social change and privilege which saw a National Health Service, a welfare state, security, peace and financial wealth.

But is he happy? He has seen the erosion of values, the erosion of community, the destruction of the nuclear family – all factors which held his parents and grandparents together.

Our sixties teenage angry young man now complains about the lack of values, waxes lyrically with nostalgia and regrets sentimentally about his parents generation – moans about the state of the nation, deplores the loss of standards, and castigates the young with their disrespect and irreverence for authority.

He wants to bring back hanging and flogging, he wants to incarcerate them, he wants to punish them with the full force of the law.

In 1966 he didn’t want to know about 1945 – he didn’t want to know about the hardships his parents suffered. What he wanted was a comfortable life.

Well he got it – so the best thing he can do now is stop being a hypocrite, and stop bloody moaning.

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, General, History, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Crimea…Half a League Onward…….

 

crimeapic

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Just over a hundred years ago the world went to war, and the stage for it was set by another smaller but no more less significant conflict almost 60 years earlier. It’s a timely reminder – because it was called the Crimean War.

It was a war which altered the balance of power in Europe, and which subsequently led to the assassination in 1914 of Archduke Ferdinand – heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His killer was Gavrilo Princip a Serbian nationalist who wanted the South Serb provinces to break away and be combined into Greater Serbia – or a Yugoslavia – a union of South Slavic countries.

This ultimately led to other European states being dragged in, all vying for their position and alliances, and so it was that the Great War began. This brief introduction, deliberately short on studious analysis is merely to put the Crimean War into context. And we must go even further back from it’s origins to understand how and why the Crimean War began – as far back as the Napoleonic Wars 200 years ago.

2014 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, but last year 2015 also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of Bonaparte’s dream of a European empire, with he as her emperor.

At the end of the Napoleonic war the great powers  Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria and France got together in Vienna to try and restore European stability by suppressing revolutionary republics and supporting sensible monarchies. Known as the Treaty of Vienna, it led to 30 years of peace in Europe. By 1845 this peace was showing signs of cracks, principally because of the weakness of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.

Then as now Turkey had one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, or more to the point one foot in European Christian orthodoxy and the other in Islamic Middle East. At this point enters the protagonist, then as now – Russia.

Tsar Nicholas  was keen to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire with a view to carve up the European part of Turkey and gain some valuable strategic areas. This effectively would give Russia control of the Dardanelles, the strait which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean, and more famously known today for the disastrous tragic WWI campaign of Gallipoli.

Due to increased Russian aggression, Turkey declared war against Russia in October 1853. A month later the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, a Turkish city on the Black Sea, which galvanised British concerns because it threatened her trade links with Turkey and India.

The French, who had no particular interest in Turkey, chose to ally themselves to Britain because they were still smarting from their defeat by Russia in 1812 (later immortalised in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture) and thought that this was their chance to return the bloodied nose.

An ultimatum was issued to Russia to evacuate from the area by March 1854. That month was significant because by then the Baltic ice fields would break up allowing the British to annihilate the Russian fleet should the demand be ignored, which it was. By August the combined Anglo-French fleet took control of the Baltic. Austria subsequently joined the alliance and together contributed to an army of 60,000 to defend Istanbul.

The Russian Tsar ignored the threats (shades of Putin here) and called the bluff. A British plan was formulated to land in the Crimea, and attack Sevastopol with the view of destroying the Russian fleet and the dockyard. What followed was a catalogue of indecision, chess board manoeuvring and glorified Victorian valour which resulted in the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade. This astonishing display of bravery, courage (madness some will say) into the “valley of death” as Tennyson penned it, so shocked and frightened the Russians that they never again dared to face the British in the field.

Eventually there was a victory of sorts, and the Russians accepted defeat, the demilitarisation of the Black Sea, and for a time the European settlement of the “Turkish Question”. With the 1856 Treaty of Paris, (as with all face-saving treaties of this kind) Russia went home to lick her wounds with a modicum of compensation.

That’s what it’s all about and that’s why the defeated always walk away with a prize of sorts. Political expediency, diplomacy and conciliation make the world go around, regardless of the pain and suffering to get there in the first place. It’s easy to start something, but damned difficult to end something. A lesson we never seem to learn.

Today Russia is on the aggressive ascendancy, and Turkey seeks a political route to European Union membership through clever compromise and negotiation regarding the current mass refugees crisis. History may be the past, but it is also the present and the future, and we ignore it at our peril.

See also Bardiness: Florence Nightingale

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How did Russians conquer Crimea from the Muslim Tatars?

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, History, Politics, Religion, The Flashman Papers, Travel, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bardiness 400- Speakers’ Corner……

Speakers-Corner-006This is my 400th Bardiness post.

In a democracy where the ballot box is the measure of freedom, sometimes the common man needs to voice his concerns beyond the electorate system. The internet has given a voice to the silent, and blogs have given a platform to the unheard. Those voices are all shouting now, and the noise is deafening.

Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park is a place where those with a point of view can stand up and express themselves. Some will get an audience, some will not, and some will get heckled. It has been designated a space for freedom of speech for over 165 years.

Anyone can turn up unannounced, and talk on any subject. As recently as 1999 a ruling by Lord Justice Sedley in his decision with a case involving the UK Director of Public Prosecutions, described Speakers’ Corner as demonstrating “the tolerance which is both extended by the law to  opinion of every kind and expected by the law in the conduct of those who disagree, even strongly, with what they hear,”

This ruling famously established in English case law that freedom of speech could not be limited to the inoffensive but extended also to “the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome, and the provocative, as long as such speech did not tend to provoke violence” .

That Right, accorded by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, also accorded the right to be offensive.

What is a blog then…if not a virtual Speakers Corner? A place where we can be “irritating, contentious, eccentric, heretical, unwelcome and provocative”, providing we don’t provoke violence or hatred? There may be many blogs inciting the latter two, but Bardiness stands by English Law, and the European Convention of Human Rights.

This post is an expression of the fundamental principles of freedom of speech. Bardiness may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but there are countries in the world which won’t even allow the leaves in the pot, never mind allow them to brew and be poured.

Perhaps in the future “Englishness” will become synonymous with “freedom”.  Archaic words along with lost Latin meaning  tolerance, courage, dignity and self-respect.

They say that every Englishman is born free. Living free however is a constant battle and something we must fight for everyday……

Freedom in death is freedom too late.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

(Shakespeare HenryV scene III)

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Education, History, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The New Queen of Scots………

SNP Party annual conference 2014Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalists, launched her party’s manifesto today. She says that another referendum of Scottish Independence is not on the agenda (yet) and she is committed to the abolition of Trident – the UK’s nuclear submarine defence system (or at the very least getting it out of her country). She’s also committed to the total impotence of the Conservative Party. Their march to power is real.

The population of Scotland is less than 5.5million with 4.2 million eligible voters. 100,000 of which are recent due to the voting age being lowered to 16. It wasn’t enough to get them success last year in the referendum, but it’s still a significant number.

No one in England and Wales are allowed to vote for the SNP, yet they could well hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament after May 7th. There are 42 million eligible voters in England and Wales, so how is it that this small country, with a small party, can influence the affairs of everyone else – all of whom cannot vote SNP even if they wanted to!

The Scots think big, and they are passionatly proud of their identity, but what right do they have to have a say over the rest of us? This is not democracy in action. But it is a perfect storm whereby the established parties have failed the public miserably, and people just don’t trust them anymore, and will cast their vote for others – such as UKIP, or the Green Party, and of course the LibDems.

The nation is in flux. Cameron and Miliband are failing to engage, and neither Conservative or Labour can barely be separated with a blade of grass.

Indeed neither of them have the qualities of statesmanship which deep down is what the British public seek.

I really do fear that our parliamentary democracy, the oldest in the world – the Mother of Parliaments – is under serious threat. For indeed, a Government must be formed within thirteen days of an election – appointed by the Queen, and she certainly doesn’t know what to expect, or who she will be dealing with, and no doubt this is focusing her mind.

She surely never had to deal with anything like this throughout her long reign, especially potentially dealing with a party (SNP) whose fundamental goal is to break the very union she represents!

We must be very grateful that we have a constitutional monarchy, with a woman of substance as it’s head, because if the shit hits the fan, we can at least rally around the Crown – and thank God that she – Elizabeth – is the one wearing it!

Furthermore, what’s the difference between UKIP and the SNP? UKIP wants to maintain the United Kingdom, keep Trident, but leave the European Union. The SNP wants to break up the United Kingdom, abolish Trident, and join a greater European Union. Do the Scots really want that? It’s a potentially disastrous scenario, and the crazy thing is the English, Welsh and Northern Irish haven’t got a single solitary say in the matter. Maybe it’s time they did!

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Current Affairs, Education, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 2 Comments

In God We Trust

usdollarAll American Presidents and candidates believe that God is on their side. The latest being Rand Paul, who says “with God’s help” he will win. That’s in sharp contrast with the UK candidates for Prime Minister. The Labour leader Ed Milliband has gone on record as being an atheist, although he does have faith (whatever that means).

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is also an atheist (but raises his son in his wife’s Catholic faith).

The Conservative leader David Cameron admits that he is a lapsed Christian, as indeed is the UKIP leader Nigel Farage (yet both proclaim that they have not lost their faith – deep down they have Christian values etc. blah blah).

This is a quandary.

I’m a Christian in so far that I believe in Jesus Christ. Any man who suffered as much as He, through persecution, betrayal and crucifixion, yet still decided to return within 48 hours to save those who treated Him so badly surely gets my vote. That’s dedication! Jews of course don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah – he didn’t meet the conditions laid down in the Messianic Hebrew Chronicles – but they accept he may have been a prophet. The Messiah has yet to come – apparently.

Still, we have reached a tolerable medium, and Judeo-Christianity are the scales which balance precariously on the fulcrum of faith.

So how does that leave us in this secular western world? Well, the United Kingdom is a Christian country. Not my words – but the Queen’s. She is officially “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. She appoints Archbishops and bishops on the advice of the Prime Minister – the “Head of Her Majesty’s Government”.

This puts me, and Her Majesty in a pickle, although it’s more of a pickle for her (I’m just pickled). It beggars the question – how can an atheist Prime Minister advise “The Supreme Governor of the Church of England” on who should be appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury – the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion? How can a Prime Minister of a Christian country in which the laws since Magna Carta were founded on Christian theology, if not exegesis, espouse from his or her political pulpit the importance of Christian values and Christian morals? How can a Prime Minister be a PM without practising what he preaches?

Love it or loath it, the United Kingdom is predominantly a Christian country. Other religions and faiths function very well within it. They are welcome.  Britain is traditionally the home for all – and it’s a worthy commendation. Yet, with a constitutional monarchy, with a Queen as the Head of State, not only in the UK but in other Commonwealth countries around the world, one would expect her Prime Minister to have a Christian faith. It is the bedrock of over 1500 years of British history, and one way or another it has stood the test of time, at home or abroad.

In the USA candidates who declare themselves as atheists wouldn’t stand a chance. “In God we Trust” is written on every dollar bill, and if God was never mentioned in the Constitution He was certainly present between the lines.

So here is my problem. Who do I vote for? An atheist or a Christian? Should it matter? After all, the future of the nation isn’t at stake, what’s at stake is our humanity to our fellow man and how we care for each other.

What’s God got to do with that? I think you know my answer!

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, History, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pragmatic View on the UK Election 2015

UK-Union-FlagPragmatism is the key to this UK General Election, yet by very nature of the word it can stifle change and continue the status quo. All of us like to think we are pragmatic. It implies we are sensible, realistic, grounded and practical. That’s why most of us who will vote on May 7th will favour the established political parties – Conservative or Labour. It’s the comfort factor – idealism is all very well, and whilst many of us will have high ideals, and may even strive for them – the fear of instability will override them. Such loyalty, although commendable, invariably reduces risk, and risk is a factor for those who want to live stable lives – regardless.

Families require security – they know that the Socialists will tax more to pay for essential services. By contrast they know that the Conservatives will reduce tax, but the spending power of the individual will be increased and therefore essential services will be paid through a a growing healthy economy. Both are in essence ideals – they just differ on the method of delivery.

A sensible electorate will vote for one or the other. Not because they are the only choices, but because they are the established safe choices. Yet, for the second time in five years, a majority government seems unlikely. It is the age of coalition, and until 2010 this had never happened before except during a time of war – World War II. Then it was the right thing to do – when political differences were set aside to fight a common enemy. Today we don’t have a common enemy, we just have common differences and in the mix are small parties with specific agendas, and anyone of them could play politics and hold the balance of power.

A minority Labour or Conservative government could function, but they would have difficulty implementing policy without doing deals with undesirable bedfellows. The Scottish Nationalist Party, who seek an independent Scotland within the EU (a party which recently forced a referendum to leave the UK and lost) could have influence in the very Parliament they wanted to leave. The United Kingdom Independence Party which wants to leave the European Union and have strict immigration policies could have influence likewise. The Liberal Democrats – the party which formed a coalition with the Tories in 2010 have achieved little, but believe they are the party to keep a balance on an all powerful government. The Green Party which may catch votes, are unlikely to have any significance. Then there is the Democratic Union Party who power-share the Northern Ireland Assembly with the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin. Then there is Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationalist Party who seek an independent Wales within the EU. All will attract votes, yet all in their own way will render impotent a UK Government holding a minority.

So when Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP declares that “all bets are off” – he is quite right.

That’s why this election is probably the most significant in modern times. A minority Labour or Conservative victory will result in deals being done with the aforementioned. Labour will not contemplate leaving the EU unless it can change it from within. The Conservatives are committed to a referendum on EU membership in 2017. UKIP want categorical and unconditional removal from the EU. The SNP want Scottish Independence. The DUP wants greater control in Northern Ireland, and Plaid Cymru wants Welsh independence within the EU without influence from a UK parliament. Neither Labour or Conservative want a coalition with any, and for the next 38 days they will surely attempt to distance themselves from any potential scenario.

Meanwhile our country is being shoved and pulled in the world of international affairs. Our military is diminished, our economic power is questionable, our values are clouded, and our status in the world is opaque.

We are the repository of wealth from the global rich, yet our own people cannot afford to live in their own Capital. Our treasured jewel the National Health Service is under attack, our fundamental values which we imparted to the world of care for the elderly, sick, disabled and less fortunate have now – in a dramatic turnaround – become ideals, and our prided pragmatism is now seriously questionable.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oyster Card rakes in the money for Transport for London

Earlier in the year I wrote a post complaining about the unjust, underhand and surreptitious methods employed by the London Mayor and Transport for London to extract money in advance from all public transport users with a view to creating a cashless transport system through their Oyster Card.

The spin then was that cash paying passengers cost TfL £28m per year, and this money could be better spent on the transport system. It was a con then, and a con now. I stated that there must be a great deal of unused fares in the coffers of TfL earning interest. Little did I know the magnitude of that statement. One month today on Sunday 6th July, all buses in London will become cashless, yet it is now known that TfL are sitting on £60million of Oyster balances, paid for by occasional travellers and tourists.

It’s very simple: I cannot catch a bus from then and pay a cash fare. I must buy an Oyster Card in advance. This involves paying a £5 deposit and loading it with enough money to clear at least a return journey. Most people will load it with another £5. A single fare on a London bus by Oyster is £1.40, as opposed to a cash fare costing a quid more. Many who are not commuters will not use their card again for months – even years, but hardly anyone writes to TfL to reclaim their balance, and even fewer attempt to reclaim their deposit. This is especially the case for the millions of tourists visiting London who either don’t know how – or care about getting their money back.

Indeed, the visitor to London is presented with a very complicated series of hoops and roundabouts to manoeuvre, with a myriad of different fares, ranging from one day travelcards, to weekly and monthly peak and off-peak passes. How many will be bothered to go through even more complications just to recover their surplus unused funds? I live in London, and even I can’t be bothered to get mine back – besides, I may need it again in the future. That’s TfL’s trump selling point – once purchased never expired.

However it’s the buyer who will expire before the card – especially if he or she is a one-off visitor to London, and never likely to return. London may be a tourist magnate, but many of the millions who visit and pay for their Oyster Cards may never return. Just because I’ve seen the Valley of the Kings and the Tomb of Tutankhamen doesn’t mean I want to see them again! Even if I do, it could be years hence – and the same applies to visitors to London. So all that unused Oyster fare will sit in the coffers of TfL, earning interest, year on year.

Lets suppose that our imaginary tourist to London returns home to Oklahoma or Okinawa, and realises that he has a £5 deposit outstanding on his Oyster Card (and maybe more of unused advanced fares) – is he likely to contact TfL for a refund? Not likely! How many thousands, tens of thousands – nay – hundreds of thousands over several years will not bother? How many millions of pounds will be in the coffers of TfL? the figure of £60m mentioned earlier was just for one year alone – 2013.

Yet, here we have a Mayor of London, and a profiteering business masquerading as a local government body called Transport for London, which uses spin and technology to remove basic freedoms from the individual. The freedom to just hop on a bus, pay cash, and get to the next stop. That’s not too much freedom to ask for is it? But it gets worse. The alternative to the Oyster is a contacless payment – an embedded chip in a debit or credit card, a key fob, or in a smart phone – one flash and you’re there – designed for small one off payments upto £10 or £15 – direct from you’re bank account. Again, all designed to eliminate the need for cash. It’s the future – a future under constant attack from hackers.

Is it really too much to expect that a bus driver cannot carry a small float, just to give the facility of a cash fare? Should we really enforce tourists to this amazing city to pay in advance for a system they barely understand? Cannot they use the pound in their pocket to just go somewhere? Is this not the nation above all others which embraces simplicity, freedom and choice? A nation which abhors bureaucracy and which is the flagship of individualism. A nation which fought for such freedoms, and which draws people to it like a magnet?

Bit by bit, the invasive nature of technology is slowly but surely controlling us. It may be just a simple bus journey today, but tomorrow it may be the journey of life itself.

Related articles

Oyster – the World of Transport for London
£60m lying unused on prepay Oyster cards
Cash payments to halt on London’s buses

June 6, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Politics, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Walking Dead – A Game of Scones

walking

Catching up with the last episode of The Walking Dead our intrepid heroes have all managed to make it to “Sanctuary”. The usual convoluted strorylines have played out, with back stories of the main characters, indeed, this is becoming a soap opera, the difference being that the ever present threat of dangerous dead people are forever present.

It’s reached the stage that the enemies are not zombies, but real people. It’s an interesting development, and necessary to fill out a simple survival tale. The survivors have resorted to basic animal instincts to survive, for in a world of Zombies, nobody can be trusted, chaos ensues, and basic instincts akin to mediaeval times take control.

How much more shock can we endure. As I have mentioned in other posts, the Walking Dead is an excuse for gory violence on a grand scale. Children either commit murder or are victims of it. Adults teach the children how to fire arms. Messages are written in the blood of zombies because pen and ink are not available. Which is quite astonishing, because when the survivors raid a shop they never pick up any sensible things like writing instruments. They often find tinned fruit, and seem to have an unlimited supply of matches to light a fire.

They have been wandering around Atlanta for four seasons now, and the weather has been ambient. The most sinister villain was English – The Governor – ok, he was played by an English actor – and a nasty piece of work he was. But he was the smartest because he knew about local government control – mad, but focused – a bit like Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London (I was going to say without the crazed look in his eye…but on second thoughts…!)

Unfortunately David Morrissey (said Governor) completely flipped his lid and went rampant on a gorefest of murder and mayhem – resulting in his own demise. It’s strange that if he had kept his head (and his eye patch) he would have been a great leader – after all, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! In the Land of the Zombies he would have been Emperor!

Still, David at the mid-season break was killed off, and our motley crew of survivors were scattered to all points of the compass.

It’s a sad loss – a villain true was Morrissey. I equate his demise to the execution of Richard Sharpe in the Game of Thrones. I mean whatisname….(long pause).. Ned Stark aka Sean Bean (or vice versa).

Focus for Gawds sake!

On the subject of Game of Thrones….hang on, that’s a different post! Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, our heroes were dispersed but seem to have all met up again in a strange place which offers safety. Of course, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye, and something sinister is afoot. I don’t really know what it is – I’ve never read the comics (oops, I mean “graphic novels”) but it looks like the hero Rick (English actor Andrew James Clutterbuck aka Andrew Lincoln) has found his mojo and is about to unleash hell.
What would Hollywood do without the English? Indeed, what would Game of Thrones do without us?
On which subject, I must make an observation. Surely if the zombie apocalypse happened in London, we English would have created some order by now – you know – contingency, bureaucracy, trade, pen pushers, administration, home guard, colonel Blimps etc? How about the Women’s Institute and Salvation Army? After all, we all like a brass band and a cup of tea with crumpet. A Game of Scones! Clearly Atlanta isn’t ready for all that.

April 12, 2014 Posted by | Arts, Books, Culture, Game of Thrones, Humour, The Walking Dead, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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