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Bollocks to Brexit

9 Jul

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A couple of weeks ago, I marched on Westminster.

I joined the People’s Vote March in London, along with maybe a hundred thousand of my fellow countrymen, demanding that we the people have our democratic say in the Brexit process.

I’ve never marched before. I could have stayed at home and carried on rebuilding the computer that will replace the one I ran over a couple of weeks ago. Or fixed the car. Or gone on a bike ride. Or a hundred other things that clamour for my time and attention. But I felt this was sufficiently important to actually take a day out, shell out on a train ticket, get myself down to London and be part of the rally. It was hot. It was crowded. It was slow. But it was so, so worth it.

Would one person make that much difference? Maybe not. But a hundred thousand other Brits made similar decisions. They chose to give up their day for something they believed passionately about. They came from up and down the country. They were young – and old. They came, at a guess, from all parts of society, but what did seem to set them apart was that they weren’t just marching because someone told them to. They weren’t just marching because they felt they’d be left out. Each one of them made an individual choice that said "Brexit is not working, and we need to do something about it". And maybe my presence stood for the huge number of of my friends that feel the same way. In that case, millions marched today.

Two years ago I woke to the result of the Brexit vote, and I wept. I wept at the loss of my dreams for unity and peace. I wept at the loss of my hopes for a world united. I wept for my country and its xenophobia and haughty pride. I wept for my children and the destruction of their future.

Since then, not a single thing has happened to convince me that this was a good idea. The £350 million a day that we were going to spend on the NHS? It was a lie. Brexit is the only way to control immigration? A lie. The economy will be just fine? Another lie.  There will be no downside? Really? The free trade agreement will be easy? Complete hogwash.

What we see is a government that two years after the Brexit vote still have no idea how to implement it. The only thing that seems clear is that we will be worse off. We will be worse off individually – in our pockets, in loss of international mobility, in a more limited future. We will be worse off as a nation, through loss of businesses, loss of political power, loss of trade agreements, loss of international influence.

What I see, two years on, is a Britain shorn of kindness. We see a government that saw the Brexit vote as a mandate to rule. Narrowly holding on to a majority through deals and skulduggery, this government has shown its true colours as a government of the rich and the rich alone. We see our NHS stripped of its benefits and parcelled off to the private sector. We see decisions that strip our citizens of their basic human rights.

But are we surprised? What we felt was faceless EU bureaucracy was actually the very system that fought for the rights of the individual over the rights of big business, forcing better working conditions and equal opportunities on employers. That demanded high standards for food and services. Of course the business owners wanted out. They wanted a return to the old days where they made the rules – where money was absolute power.

But we see the destruction that Brexit is wreaking – and remember that big business, global business, doesn’t care. Airbus is likely to move out of the UK. So are BMW. Banks, financial institutions are all likely to relocate. London as a centre of trade is going to be destroyed. Unilever, my old employers, proud for a century of their dual nationality corporate centre, are going to move head office to Rotterdam. We get blue passports, but the price we pay is likely to be restricted travel and travel visa charges. Our NHS lacks doctors and nurses because no-one is joining us from overseas. Food rots in the fields because we lack the influx of labour that allows our farmers to pick their crops. We see that Trump’s America is not going to do any of us any favours, with levies and taxes, quotas and duty… did we really believe we were better out of a huge trading coalition than in it? Really? Trump is already talking about a G3 comprising China, Russia and the US where the EU is left out.. do we really think little Britain gets a seat at that table?

For fuck’s sake, what are we doing?

I believe in democracy. But a vote is just a part of the democratic process. And a vote based on ignorance, lies, half truths and lack of knowledge, distorted by our press and influenced by outside interference, is not a democratic vote. We are a wiser nation now. We know the implications. We can see the future. There will still be those that believe that we are best to return to an island nation – to pull up the drawbridge and distil our xenophobic hatred. There will still be those who believe that it’s best to get rid of the protections of the EU and the European courts so they can stamp their imprint on ordinary folk.

That is not what this country needs. This country needs to see the future coming, a future of increasing globalisation and co-operation (we pray) between nations. We need to have a seat at that table, able to trade on equal terms with the others, able to be part of a decision making process that shapes the world throughout the rest of the 21st century. We are a strong country, and a powerful country. But we can only be that if we are prepared to play together with the rest of the world’s leaders, and not to take our ball and go home and sulk. We need leaders who are prepared to make the hard choices. The difficult choices. To stand up to those that seem to hold the cards and represent this country as a whole rather than the minority.

Let Brexit have been a wake up call. For that, it may have been worth it. If it helped us realise how precious what we have is. How important it is to be part of Europe. How much value that membership really gives us.

But now let democracy rule. The majority of the people in this country do not want to leave the European Union. Let there be a vote to demonstrate what we want based on what we now know. I’m certain we’ve got it wrong.

TimSignature

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Aviemore Alliteration

7 Jun

(My apologies for the delay in posting this.. it got buried after my visit in May. And my apologies for the poor pictures – I managed to forget to charge my camera before leaving)

   I have two sons. One of them lives across town from me. Close enough that I can walk his lurcher, Ripley.. of which more another day, perhaps. The other one… he lives in Edinburgh. Which is MILES away. Which means I have a perfect excuse to go up to Scotland four or five times a year. Hop on a train in Peterborough… hop off at Waverley station. Piece of cake.

And one of my goals for 2018 is to have more adventures. So rather than just visiting Davey and his girlfriend, wandering the streets of Edinburgh, drinking lots of coffee and coming home again, which is all very nice.. it was time for an adventure. And time for some thoughtful space. And to have a little fun. And perhaps do a little alliteration on the way. Because alliteration actually aids amusing anecdotes….God forgive me….

Moggies, Meandering and the Macabre

Edinburgh May (9)So first off, having walked to work with D, I had the morning to myself. I had wanted to visit the Cat Café in Edinburgh for a while. So I spent an hour in the company of a dozen assorted ragdolls, Norwegian forest cats, Siamese and more (https://www.maisondemoggy.com/meet-the-cats/) all with their own fabulous space, lots of toys and lots of space to hide. Being around animals has the not unsurprising effect of making me deeply deeply happy, and this bunch of somewhat dismissive felines with their ‘another day, another human’ approach to their day had me very much comfortable with my life.

GuillaumeFabian

Edinburgh Feb (20)I spent the rest of the afternoon following the footsteps of grave robbers Burke and Hare round Edinburgh city centre – there is a wonderful trail at geocaching.com which is well researched and brilliantly written, if slightly disturbing. OK, very disturbing.. especially when you get to the end. Apparently Burke’s skeleton is on display at Edinburgh Anatomy museum. Who knew?

Magic, Musing and Merlin

Day 2 had me climbing Arthur’s Seat. It’s one of my favourite spaces in Edinburgh, and although my preferred access route is a steep and rocky climb, the views of the city are exceptional, and the sky was clear, even if I did get the sense that I might get blown off the side of the hill if I wasn’t careful. I took a little side trip to Merlin’s Chair, the second summit, a space I have always loved, and often spend time just sitting here… and found myself getting insight and understanding as to what was coming up next for me.. as the wind blew all the dust and cobwebs out of my head. Good job I have no hair…

Edinburgh May (7)Edinburgh May (8)

And then, after helping polish off a 20" pizza (something which requires extra care when manoeuvring it through doorways) I bid adieu to the Edinburgh clan and headed off on the train to Aviemore, deep in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Train travel is a wonderful way to get around, and I watched rapt as mountains and lochs, burns and seaviews unfolded in front of me. There’s still snow on the top of the Cairngorms, but the spring foliage makes everywhere look truly fabulous, deep greens contrasting with the lighter and brighter colours to create a canopy of colour, while here and there blossom dotted the valleys.Aviemore (8)Aviemore (11)

Falcons, Forests and Futures

And so into Aviemore. Having made my bed up in the hostel, it was time for a wander. I discovered that I was about 300m from the Craigellachie Nature Reserve – a haven of tranquillity and beauty a few yards from the busy A9. And then a wander round the woods and trails that orbit Aviemore itself, finding myself drawn into a deeper and deeper sense of peace and calm – a tranquil sense that not only was everything all right with my world, but that changes coming up in my life, while not yet fully clear, would add even more to that complete certainty of the perfection of everything. A few minutes conversation with the cows, and then I found myself being entertained by the swoops and and cries of a family of peregrine falcons, fuelling delight and happiness at a perfect evening.

Aviemore (2)Aviemore (4)

And so back to the hostel, armed with supplies for breakfast. I wonder what I will do tomorrow!

Munros, Mountains and Memories

It seemed like a jolly good plan to get on the bus for Cairn Gorm mountain centre. This half hour journey has to be the best value on the planet as it winds uphill from the Spey past lochs and pine forests, deeper and deeper into the Cairngorm mountain area. And all for £4.35 return.

On arrival, I only planned to wander a little way up and then take a leisurely saunter back past the loch. I wasn’t actually going to climb the darned thing! But a wander up the mountain side, through the eerily still and silent ski lifts and poma tows seduced me to go that little bit further.. until I found myself climbing the ridge route up to the peak, and trailing past trickling burns, now quieter after the majority of the snow had melted – and tramping across the snow that remained, snow that had drifted deep (followed by an attack of vertiginous panic which led me to take a different route). Then I just wanted to see where the funicular railway went. Then I found a rope climb path to the peak. It would have been rude not to try, especially as the folk who’d taken the easy route up on the funicular weren’t allowed to…

The Aviemore (12)view from the top was spectacular, although I have to confess that heights do make me slightly nervous… a state which was ramped up when, while eating my lunch, the Heriot-Watt automated weather station started its 2pm measurements, the resulting jump in the air causing my day to top out at about 1247m above sea level.

Aviemore (18)Having escaped the visitor centre (I swear, there’s no way out if you’re a walker without going past the ‘Staff Only’ signs) I ambled back down. I swear down is harder. If I had a snowboard, I could have run the remaining snow down in a couple of minutes, but I was forced down the zigzags of the green routes. On the way I was somewhat surprised to make the acquaintance of a couple of ptarmigan, also out for a stroll, who I christened Pterry and Pteresa. (One of my friends has a ptabby cat called Ptolemy, a fact which always makes me happy).

Aviemore (22)Aviemore (20)

Although my delight at the achievement was somewhat reduced by realising that I had only walked 6km according to the satellites…

Trees, train tracks and trekking

So, the next day I havered over the possibility of renting a bike. I havered too much. Having walked across town to discover that the bike rental shop was closed on Sunday operating from their down town location near my hostel, I decided to walk.

I met the local weather forecaster on my way out of town, and he wasn’t wrong.Aviemore (24)

Fortunately, it cheered up.

Scotland has the unique ability of making something which in England would be dull and flat into an exciting trail, so with the Cairngorms to my right and the Highlands to my left, I trAviemore (26)omped through pine forests, only occasionally overtaken by mountain bikers. I realised also that I absolutely love pictures of paths, a fact which is [a] convenient, because I am usually on one and [b] enlightening..everyone’s on a journey…) Every now and again the Aviemore (28)Speyside steam train would puff past, full of jolly tourists.. I can’t help thinking they were missing the real fun of being close to nature.

Having reached Boat of Garten, the only solution was to turn round and walk back.. this time on the wrong side of the tracks. My feet struggled with every step, but the route I had taken led me up and down through woods and moorland. At one point I saw a family of red deer in the distance, out for an evening stroll.

And so back to the bunkhouse… feeling an insane amount of joy as I removed my aching and (it has to be said) somewhat ridiculously soggy boots.

Return, relaxing and rebooting

And so back to Edinburgh – a three hour trip again through gorgeous scenery as mountains seemed to amble past my window, as streams and rivers unfolded beneath viaducts and bridges and sheep played in the sun. And then the luxury of a First Class seat back to Peterborough. Something has shifted inside me… a Rubicon has been crossed and the last couple of days have made more of a difference to me than I know. Exactly how that plays out over the next few weeks, I am yet to learn. But something significant has changed in the depths of my being, and it feels like life is rebooting…

More adventures this year!

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Down by the water

25 Aug

Photo 2017-08-16 17.36.19

As regular readers will know, I regularly take a trip out to Rutland Water for some down time. It’s one of my favourite places to be, and it’s not far away from home.

For those of you who don’t know, Rutland Water is a huge artificial lake in the middle of England (the biggest by surface area in the country), created by flooding the Gwash valley. Down under the waters are a couple of villages, flooded when the dam was built.

And I have always been fascinated by Rutland.. this strangely named county that’s the smallest in England. And for someone who lives in Northamptonshire, the hills of Rutland are just that little bit more extravagant.

I am sufficiently crazy to want to cycle there – then I can cycle round the reservoir, see a bit of wildlife, get some exercise…

Photo 2017-08-17 14.02.05When God designed Rutland, for some reason she decided that all the hills and valleys should run east to west. For a poor soul on a bike, carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, camping gear and a few odds & sods necessary to survival, this means big hills. Long hills. Tire your thighs out till they burn kinda hills. On the upside, I am now toting a backpacker tent rather than the two man version that I had last year.

Photo 2017-08-17 17.05.35But around 35km later, I am happily at my favourite camp site overlooking Rutland Water, and my new tent is set up and coffee is brewing (thanks to a fabulous little gas burner which was a Father’s Day present from my son). There are few facilities here, but it’s peaceful and has fabulous views of the Water. I do have one final task for the day though.. cycle to Oakham cos I need some food. Back on the bike and an hour later I am making dinner. As the light dies, I can see an owl hunting over the field not 20 metres away.

The weather forecast was for a shower. This is, of course, England. At night the skies opened for a downpour, causing one of my friends to ask if I had been washed away. But the sound of the rain on the tent is calming, and relaxing, and the waterproofing holds. I am snug and dry, and deliriously happy.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.30.00The next day sees me back on the bike for a ride round the reservoir, taking in a few diversions on the way. The first of these diversions is to sit and ponder for a while in Costa in Oakham.. the other reason for the trip is to look at the next phase of my life. Lots of things are ending, and I am becoming freer to do different stuff.. so I am looking at what the reboot looks like. And more on that at another time.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21
Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21I’m also collecting bolts, for my other hobby, geocaching. Some madman has hidden bolts around the reservoir perimeter with numbers stamped into them. Collect the numbers on the bolts, put them in the right sequence, and the co-ordinates should lead me to a hidden treasure trove. Following these hides around the water leads me to different spots that I would not have otherwise found, and I find myself cycling down a broad road in the middle of nowhere, where the silence seems almost absolute apart from the birds and the roar of tyres on gravel.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.46A few hours and 36km later, I’m back at the tent with a few more geocache hides collected. And all the bolt numbers. Unfortunately, the calculation yields a location 12km away. Somewhere, I have gone wrong. I decide one of the numbers is wrong, recalculate it and cycle off in search of the final location. In the end it turns out that the cache setter has got one bolt wrong, and I am rewarded with a box hidden in the trees and full of odds and ends for the junior cacher. I log my find and rehide it, feeling suitably smug to have not only solved the puzzle, but done that when the puzzle is incorrect. Go me!

Photo 2017-08-17 15.26.39

Photo 2017-08-17 16.46.51

No rain tonight, but I am rewarded with a clear sky, and a beautiful view of the stars. The light pollution is low around here, and the Milky Way arcs overhead. It seems as if I can see the constellations leaping out at me – the Great Bear, Cassiopeia, all seem vivid and real. And I marvel at this incredible infinity spread out in the night sky… I am both awed and humbled at the sight.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.06The next day, I awake to a beautiful clear sky. It’s time to break camp. The tent’s a bit soggy, so that’s going to end up adorning my living room to dry out. And the legs are starting to tire. Those hills are going to be painful on the way home. My spirits are lifted half way by a fallow deer that crosses Photo 2017-08-18 09.30.06my path. And the views across to the Harringworth viaduct always lift my spirits.

And a couple of hours and another 35km later, I and my rucksack are back home. Inspection of my tyres shows that the rubber is missing – 122km of riding has finally managed to cycle the rear tyre down to the kevlar lining. On the up side, unlike my rather traumatic outing last year, I have experienced zero punctures. This is probably down to the kevlar and puncture proof inner tubes rather than improved riding.

As ever, I feel deeply tranquil and at peace.. my state of Zen has been restored, and some of the thoughts I have had will, I am sure, soon blossom into options for my future.

I’d rest and take it easy, but in around 3 hours I will have to lay a dance floor….

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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