Tuesday, 30 December 2014

95% cloudless blue sky all day

For me, THE highlight of 2014 (even better than the glorious April day climbing the best mountain I have ever climbed with Northern England mountaineer, Nigel):

This Weller-Willson winter expedition to Aran Fawddwy was long in the coming but it was a perfect snowy day when it was finally accomplished - on Sunday 28 December 2014.  Also, I am sure, the first time I had been out on my own with just the two of them.

The three of us had a hard, circular walk from Llanymawddwy in the beautiful upper Dyfi valley.  It was made even harder for Tim who trail blazed through the often deep snow all day.  He was wearing a very snazzy black and brown skin layer of string on the front and two other clever materials on back, arms and armpits.  On top, a modern yellow, full zip, slinky top with hood.  To my relief, we chose not to do my suggestion of the straight on, steep rocky and vegetated rib directly above the sharp corner where we left the road for the gate and path.  As it was, we ended in the dark, as we were expecting and, for that reason also chose not to do my other initial suggestion of the final steep hill above Llanymawddwy.  That would have involved, in the light of our head torches, edging round by the forest fence above a steep drop.

On the summit, there was a gentle breeze.  With temperatures already below freezing, it felt even colder so we did not stop around too long.  However, long enough to take in the magnificent views all round.  We saw all the great mountain ranges of Snowdonia thirty miles away - the Carneddau, the Glyderau and the Snowdon massif, itself.  All of them seemed so small and insignificant.  There was a cloud inversion that meant that Bala and Llyn Tegid were both smothered in a lake of cloud.  In places, slightly higher prominences pushed through to make for small islands of land in the sea of cloud.

I think the snow had come two days earlier on Boxing Day, with probably more on the following day, Saturday.  Some of the fences were honeycombed in rime and Tim and Becky sword fought with icicles of ice from the wire.  In other places, grass sticking through the snow was so encased in icy snow that they looked like meerkats standing upright and staring out over the white wilderness.  Going up the first snowy 600m hill there was a huge field of white bumps that looked quite remarkable.  It was the cushion moss that is so common in upland areas; it makes for such a comfortable seat on a warm summer's day.  Tim gave us the footholds in the deep soft snow for me to put my own and then Becky, in the rear, in a perfect, trio line up, marching on.

We got back to the car after more than seven hours of hard walking and climbing.  I foolishly started driving through an enlarging slit of visibility in the windscreen.  Four miles down the road, the Red Lion in Dinas Mawddwy was more packed than I had ever seen it.  So crowded, that we got nowhere near the woodworm eaten table or the shire horse brasses and certainly not the blazing log fire.  Long drinks quenched our thirst before the two hour drive home.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

NOT Second City but Tenth Rate City!


It started with two out of the three city centre Birmingham rail stations being demolished; only to be rebuilt to make for fewer lines and platforms, certainly at Snow Hill.  The third, Moor Street, was closed.

In the 60s and 70s we had the wholesale closure of rail lines as road congestion slowly grew.  More stations were demolished and sites used for other purposes, as we foolishly put all our eggs in the one basket of fine new ring roads and road transport.

In 50 years of urban rail closures, Longbridge to Four Oaks rail line re-opened across the city and the Jewellery line via a re-opened Moor Street Station that was foolishly closed but, wisely was never demolished - thankfully!

Since the 1980s, some of the rail lines have been left unused or underused for Midland Metro trams to further fragment the once unified rail network that once saw only trains.  Trams are now unnecessarily replacing not only trains but buses!  No evidence of even one car commuter switching to trams who could not have switched to the train, if trains had been left on that urban rail line now used by trams.  (The line was closed, presumably, under Beeching and, after some years, eventually re-opened for trams.  Utter incompetence and idiocy!)

In 34 years of fruitless endeavour, only one out of a whole network of tram lines has been opened!  More failure, more negligence and more incompetence.  And, that one line went on a perfectly good rail line, apart from a short section on road!

Trams instead of trains on 11 miles of our crowded rail network, desperate for more capacity (but not even trams on 45 miles of empty, double track rail line in Brum and the adjoining Black Country - I exaggerate not!).

Your city council and PTA/Centro have plumped for Snow Hill Sta to link with New St Sta using trams instead of the nearer Moor St Sta.  This is a piece of idiocy, when all the trains that stop at Snow Hill also stop at the much nearer Moor St!  You could have spent a tiny fraction of the money now being spent linking Snow Hill and New Street stations with trams, on a simple travelator (or moving pavement) to help bridge the distance for passengers travelling between Moor Street and New Street Stations.

Safer movement for all road users, including cyclists - and freeing up the road network - by making:
  1. all the existing bridleways, towpaths and cycle/walkways fit for purpose ie - free of mud, puddles and overgrowing vegetation;
  2. completing white lines on pavements for cyclists by dropping the kerbs;
  3. dropping all the kerbs on access/egress points on the Harborne Line Cycle/Walkway; STILL NOT BEEN DONE!
  4. completing the Bourn cycle/walkway by doing the excellent job that was done there by doing exactly the same with the two rights of way in Woodgate Valley CP - one side of the stream for walkers and horses with a soft surface and the other side for walkers and cyclists with a hard, free draining surface (preferably, a convex rough tarmac surface);
  5. promote walker friendly, super-courteous and responsible cycling on shared routes;
  6. re-open the 38 miles of existing double track, unused or under-used rail lines in Brum and the Black Country to make for more people being able to use the much safer rail network instead of the car or bike - many miles are alongside commuter congested roads, too.  For many decades, this has been totally stupid transport policy by the city council and PTA/Centro who should know better.
  7. fund the Canals and Rivers Trust to help them make all their urban towpaths available for buggies, wheelchairs, cyclists and walkers so that the towpath network is seen as the alternative to the road network for these users that it should be.
All of this really should not need spelling out - yet again!!

Sir Bob Kerslake wrote in a key report on Birmingham City Council, "Get the basics right."  Even the basics are all to pot, as I have shown, here.

Rethink Trident - and our persistent warfare in every year for the last 100 (no exaggeration)!

Trident is too destructive to be of any practical use.
It's a white elephant of white elephants.
It cannot possibly stop the UK from being attacked since plenty of other countries don't have this magnificent weapon of war but, have either NOT been attacked by anyone or, been attacked by us!
The countries with the biggest and most impressive arsenals of war, do the most aggression against weaker counties.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The ultimate challenge of barbarity


Of all the horrors we’ve seen in the international conflict with radical Islam, Wednesday’s massacre at

the army school in Peshawar must be among the most ghastly. When defenseless women and 

children are targeted on this scale, we’ve reached a new level of barbarism.
How did we get here? Without detracting from the attack’s distinctive horror, it stems from a spiral of 

violence and escalating conflict. When did it all start: the Pakistani army’s campaign against the Taliban? 

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? 9/11? The legacy of occupation and empire that stretches back over 

centuries? The causes are endless: perhaps that’s the nature of conflicts. And the solutions are 

doubtful. The Pakistani army may be victorious, but at what cost, and with what consequences? Perhaps 

this war will spread, or merge into the region’s other conflicts; or perhaps the barbarism will just continue 

to escalate.
Reflecting on the conflicts of his own time, the Buddha alighted on a singular term for what he observed: 

proliferation. Causes multiply into diverse effects, especially when ideology and beliefs magnify them. He 

made sense of this by noting the parallel with what happens in our minds: one irritable thought begets 

another, which becomes a compelling narrative about what’s happening; and, soon enough, we act.
This psychological approach led the Buddha to locate the ultimate causes of war and conflict in the 

minds of individual human beings. We’ll do anything to banish unpleasant feelings and put things right 

when we feel they’re wrong, even if that leads us to act in ways we’d otherwise condemn. That’s how 

otherwise decent people come to justify the use of torture.
In the Buddhist view, nothing good can result when we’re driven by hatred, anger and the desire for 

revenge. Blood will have blood. This doesn’t mean that force should never be used or that wars are 

never justified; but it’s a strong caution to check the impulse to act out of anger, to note the 

moral distortion that rigid ideology can bring, and to allow space for other wiser responses that 

come when we put anger aside.
Proliferation ends, the Buddha suggested, when we learn to tolerate pain, rather than reacting to it, and 

when patience and forgiveness give us the mental space to act with love. For me, that’s the ultimate 

challenge of the barbarity in Pakistan. The world is good at creating warmongers. Peacemakers have to 

make themselves.

SELF: The ultimate challenge is not the heroism and the ultimate sacrifice that gets lauded back home 

as you come home in a body bag but: - restraint, the quiet, soft answer that turns away wrath and the 

courage not to retaliate.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Hostility and strong language from Home Farm, Shuckburgh Estate - a rare confrontation

Yesterday, 16 December, I had a great circular walk from Napton on the Hill via Shuckburgh Park.  However, I should let you know that a slim, lithe, tall young man did not call me "a f---ing pleb" but did angrily denounce me and all walkers as "f---ing walkers".  He was young enough or, I am old enough, for him to be my grandson.  He was not, I must hastily add!

From a distance, as I walked up the hill, I looked down as he drove up in his Land Rover, picked up a dead deer by its hind legs and swung it into the back of the pick up.  I carried on into the wood thinking I was on the right of way.  I soon was shouted at - something to the effect - 

"Oy!  What do you think you are doing?  Get out of that wood.  NOW!"

I turned round and saw the same young man, standing by his Land Rover.  I immediately ran down the hill to him.  He was wearing waterproof rubber overalls, the legs of which were bloodied and his bare hands were also covered in blood as he angrily waved them about!

"How would you like it if I wandered round your back garden", he demanded.  "There are pheasants in that wood and you are disturbing them."

He asked for my address, that I meekly gave him and even invited him round to my place for coffee and cake!  I said, 

"Don't you have other walkers who wander off the public right of way because it is not clear where we are allowed to go and when we are trespassing?"

It was then that he called my ilk and me, "f---ing walkers".

I suggested "Get your boss to ask Warwickshire County Council to put in waymarking posts with yellow arrows and some signs".

However, such was his mood and hatred for walkers coming into his territory, I don't think he will want anything that would remind him of the hated walkers!

"How did the deer die?" I asked him.

"I shot it in the head", he replied.

Clearly, he's a marksman - and much else - but there was no rifle that he was brandishing while we were talking.

I went on my way, checked my Landranger map that did clearly show that the path kept out of the wood.  And, I did, too.

For lack of the OS Explorer map and absence of signs and waymarking posts, I also wandered off the path by Halls Barn Farm and the Mr A Burgess, farmer, I read.  In my youth, I helped out Worcestershire CC by putting in these posts - but, no more!

This was a great walk for the interesting features I saw - like collapsing towpath, ancient stocks (for trespassing pedestrians to get pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes), an unusual walkers' gate and a sometimes fiery beacon - quite apart from the one, even more fascinating, human!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Israel/Palestine = perpetual conflict = 2 failed states, except one is not a state.

Israel/Palestine = perpetual conflict = 2 failed states, except one is not a state.  Neighbours who cannot live in peace and harmony with each other.  Tragic for both.

We either share our limited area of land as brothers and sisters of the one human family or, we perish as fools.  So far, Israel/Palestine are perishing fools.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Make ALL our existing cycle/footways and towpaths fit for use by non-motorised transport - responsible shared use!

Such is the urgency of fighting ever increasing population growth; finite and climate changing fossil fuel burning; rising road and rail congestion; rising greenhouse gas emissions - and, obesity, we really do need to make all our existing cycle/footways and towpaths fit for use by non-motorised transport.

This alternative to the road and rail network for non-motorised transport is already in place but, mainly, well below par.  Especially, along our canals and in Woodgate Valley Country Park that are both ideal commuter routes for cycles.

They are a rip roaring success throughout Birmingham Westside, especially in the evenings when they are teeming with walkers and the occasional cyclist who, rightly gets slowed by all the pedestrians out of their cars and, unbelievably, exercising!

More car commuters could be encouraged to make the switch - but, the existing infrastructure must be made fit for purpose.

Turn the mudways into mud free, puddle free, non motor cycle/walkways and, widened to accommodate walkers and cyclists more safely.

Widened as was done, this year, to repair a wall on the Birmingham - Wolverhampton Canal near the Soho Loop in Hockley/Ladywood.  We now have a slightly lower, waters edge, towpath that cyclists are using and the upper towpath, that is ideal for walkers.  In my opinion, this widening is excellent and might be extended by removing vegetation and doing towpath widening everywhere else - as funding becomes available from abandoning expensive projects that switch only bus and rail users onto trams.

Why not a NE extension to the present, much improved Harborne Line Cycle/Walkway with a cutting dug, to a reinstated cycle/footbridge from the rail tunnel beneath Northbrook Street, across the existing rail bridge supports in the middle of the canal, to the towpath to face Brum city centre?

At the turn of the 21st century, sleek and modern looking cycle/footbridges were built near both Machynlleth and Towyn, way out in the heart of rural Wales to benefit tourism.  These proposals of mine are to facilitate modal shift to reduce chronic and increasing road congestion and to benefit business and the success of our city.  One cycle/footbridge to ease road congestion in Brum is far more important than two, way out in beautiful Wales.

What do you all think - please?!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

e-petition for the Black Country Rail Line


1) After 34 years of trying but failing to get trams, cancel the fruitless endeavour and return existing trains and rebuild the stations.
2) Trams were only for the middle section, anyway!
3) Return, instead, trains to the full length of 13.5 miles of mothballed, double track rail line through three densely populated Black Country boroughs - Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.
4) It runs alongside or close to commuter congested roads.
5) This forgotten, strategically vital, train line connects at either end with the national rail network.
6) It would relieve some of the chronic road and rail congestion at New Street Station in Birmingham by creating 13 miles of more rail capacity in the adjacent Black Country.
7) It would give rail passengers from all over the UK an opportunity to visit the Black Country (especially, the Museum, Zoo, Canal Trust and Merry Hill Shopping Centre) and give Brum a miss - for once!

“Egypt is fighting a war of existence” - and so is Israel and the West/NATO!

Oh, how we love warring against terrorists - wherever we can continue our killing!

FROM A NEWS REPORT - I have been sent:

"Egypt continues to destroy Hamas terror infrastructure along with homes, but with no world condemnation. Yet when Israel fights a war of defense, it causes an international uproar. Double standard?

Ma’an previously reported that Egyptian troops had demolished some 800 houses in the area, erasing entire neighborhoods in the process.

“Egypt is fighting a war of existence,”  Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared in November.  Egyptian authorities, like Israel, view the tunnels as a security threat and regularly destroy them. The demolition began following a surge of Hamas terror in the Sinai culminating in the deaths of 33 Egyptian military personnel."

The Black Country Rail Line (BCRL) re-opening proposal

The fifty years, mothballed, Black Country Rail Line (BCRL) re-opening proposal:
  1. It runs through three of the four Black Country boroughs and connects with the national rail network at either end - at Stourbridge Junction and Walsall (a major rail hub), via Castle Hill in Dudley.
  2. It is shown on every map of Birmingham and the Black Country, including the Ordnance Survey, the A-Z and Google Maps.
  3. The current proposal to put Metro trams on the middle section only has failed to materialise in 34 years of our councillors and officers trying so very, very hard.  Time, now, to try the simpler and cheaper solution of trains and stations returning, linked to buses to take passengers to and from the trains.
  4. The BCRL will improve capacity on our national rail network more quickly, more cheaply and with less impact on human climate change and resource depletion than HS2.
  5. It will reduce congestion at the UK's foremost rail congestion bottleneck, New Street Station by allowing inter-city and commuter trains to bypass New Street.
  6. It will give choice to car commuters sitting in nose to tail traffic to leave their cars at home and get to work quicker and more responsibly by bus and, train on the BCRL.
  7. We have had hundreds of millions of pounds spent building the Black Country Spine Road and the Black Country New Road and the more recent grade separated junction on the West Bromwich Expressway.  Now, its time for trains to reduce road and rail congestion - and air pollution and greenhouse gases.
  8. I think, Cllr Will Duckworth supports trains and stations being put back on the line from what he told me at the November GP meeting.  He did not realise that it went on to Walsall.
  9. In the last decade, hundreds of people supported my two Downing Street petitions for trains back on our existing 20 miles of double track rail lines that includes the six miles alongside commuter congested Alcester Road and Moseley Road (A435).
  10. Spending £200 m on the 13.5 miles BCRL is more responsible and cost effective than more road building and HS2 to improve capacity.
  11. At a time of supposed austerity, £600 m is being spent on a cosmetic revamp of New Street Station that does not improve rail congestion or, road congestion to the Drop and Go parking (actually, Stop and Crawl through the exhaust fumes polluted tunnel - in peak times).
  12. The two leaders of Walsall and Sandwell councils are sympathetic to having trains returning to the whole length instead of trams on the middle section, only.  I have not yet asked the new Dudley leader, Peter Lowe what he wants.  Birmingham and their leader, Sir Albert Bore, wants more Metro trams, more HS2 and is not interested in the Black Country Rail Line (from his response when I spoke to him on the 5 December at his advice bureau in the Council House).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Do you really want to know who is responsible for Israel attacking Gaza? GAZA!

I have watched the video from Israelvideonetwork.com that explains why this summer's attack on Gaza has been the most justified war, ever.

The video maintains that the Gazans are committing suicide as Israel's massive 50 days of attack kill and injure many thousands of Gazans. Suicide by the people of Gaza because they are sheltering the Hamas fighters who fire rockets at Israel; suicide because the people of Gaza do as they are told by Hamas and put themselves in the line of fire; suicide by the people because they welcome the Hamas rockets being fired from their homes that then get bombed by Israel.

For me, Israel's attack does not comply with Jewish ethics of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth because the Gazan's sub standard rockets into Israel killed or injured no-one before Israel's attack began on the 8 July 2014. Operation Protective Edge was solely about giving everyone in Israel a little peace and quiet from the ineffective rockets that were so noisily shot down by, in contrast, Israel's modern and effective missile defence system, Iron Dome. Operation Overkill would have been a more honest and accurate name that Israel might have chosen. Jewish ethics could do with a wholesale review, methinks!

Walter Parker - war hero

Where are the peace heroes?

A truly great guy but, how sad that making the ultimate sacrifice and being a true hero can can only be recognised when we are killing foreigners in war and then being killed. Unfortunately, the 1st WW was the forerunner for OUR British warfare in many other countries around the world in every single year since 1914 to the present (Guardian 12 Feb 2014 four page spread of dismal evidence). Will we ever learn to use conflict resolution, civil disobedience and non-violent direct action to maintain law and order in the world? I'm no pacifist but, really, violence and killing should only be used as a last resort and not the first! I'm no pacifist because I believe in the United Nations deciding when the West should use its military might to sort out the men of violence and disorder in the world. And that begins with ourselves and, a little humble circumspection may not go amiss!!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Weird logic from the judge over the Mitchell libel case

I, personally, was surprised that Andrew Mitchell lost.  Jeremy Vine said, "Once you see a police officer jailed for pretending he was there and he heard it (the 10-15 seconds row), you then think the whole account must be untrue."  In total, three officers lost their jobs over the fabrications.

The judge said, that the Police were not capable of making up all that Mitchell said in the time that they had.  The BBC journalist reported that the judge thought, "They would have had to instantaneously come up with this conspiracy and they were simply not capable of doing that."  The officers did not have the wit or the intelligence to do so.  The officer was saved by a lack of wit.  The judge thought that the officers were not capable of making things look very bad for Mitchell by inventing the word, 'pleb'.  Therefore, he, Mitchell must have said it.

Giving his ruling, Mr Justice Mitting said: “For the reasons given I am satisfied at least on the balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same including the politically toxic word pleb.”
How absurd that Mitchell's career has been destroyed by some weird logic by a judge who admits that Mitchell might not even had said 'pleb' but only something close to pleb!

What an absurd ruling when the judge said the Police did not have the wit or the imagination to make up the so inoffensive word, 'pleb' and, therefore, Mitchell must have said it.  In addition, how could Mitchell have said this wicked, evil word, 'pleb' when three out of the four officers lost their jobs and one was even jailed for one year over the whole incident?  Mitchell could not have acted more honourably, afterwards, in quickly apologising for swearing but, not for a word he always maintained he did not say.  It seems inconceivable that, at the same time or, soon after when he realised how offensive the word was to the police, he would not also have apologised for saying 'pleb', if he had actually said it.

What is more, if the Sun maintains that Mitchell said the word, 'pleb',  you can be pretty sure that Mitchell did not say it!

Mitchell was winning in the court of public opinion, said Jonathan Aitkin.