The sad death of Frank Thornton at the grand old age of 92 serves as a reminder that terrible comedy is less excruciating when executed with impeccable timing and genuine acting talent. Unfortunately, as we have witnessed this week, experience of folding towels at Selfridges is not necessarily the best preparation for those fortunate enough to be elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It has been a while since I blogged about anything, I suppose my recent operation sapped some of my humour and maybe stopped me seeing the funny side of things for a while but a meeting I attended last night seemed to kickstart the systems again.
I was wearing my “Friends of ” hat and the hot topic for the night was the proposed plans to tip the balance of Brownhills Common back towards Heathland. This proactive management of the land was specified by Natural England when making the Common a SSSI.
Heathland is a disappearing environment and as we now have a better understanding of how nature works and the fundamental interconnectedness of all things that provide us with a functioning planet. It is widely recognised that humans have seriously messed up the planet and that this really cannot go on. This wasn’t something decided in Walsall by a pen pusher looking to make a quick profit to the detriment of the locality, this was decided at the Rio summit. The overall impression gained from this worldwide gathering of people who really know their shit was that as a species we not only needed to stop messing things up but to try and put some things back to the way they were and maybe apologise to the other residents of the planet that we were affecting.
Following from the second world war, a programme of tree planting was put into action. These trees needed to have rapid growth for a relatively fast turn over brought about by a desperate shortage of timber. Rather than a native species, the tree of choice were Conifers. No regard or consideration was given native species or the effect on the biodiversity of our countryside, this was about a means to an end, a quick fix and purely for financial reasons. As a result the Heathland of Brownhills was turned over to plantation.
It takes very specific conditions for heathland to prevail and healthy heathland actually contributes to the containment of carbon emissions, which in turn reduces the effects of climate change. This is generally considered the greatest danger to life on the planet. Currently less than 20% of the country’s heathland remains and the fact that Brownhills Common was granted SSSI status reflects the genuine importance of the site for the benefit of the environment. Brownhills has a chance of saving the world and that isn’t something that is mentioned every day. SSSI status provides a number of benefits, the most important is the protection of the site from other uses, building, mining, mineral extraction. SSSI status ensures the area will be there for future generations to enjoy and at a push that future generations will there to enjoy it.
The loss of some of the plantations and their resultant return to their original state isn’t going down well with the people who enjoy the location as it is, there were a number of people at the meeting who have a lifetime of watching this foreign ecology evolve. I have spent far too much time with Swampy look a likes and wouldn’t have figured anyone there as an environmental protester, so this is obviously an emotive subject. One lady enjoys watching the trees change with the seasons another gentleman commented in the local press that they look lovely covered in snow and I must agree with both of them.
Now there has been a lot of trust lost in the meat business of late but for a local Butcher making the headlines by wanting to see the Deer on Brownhills Common seems does come across a tad strange, I understand that the Travelling community tether Horses about the locality and yet he displayed a juxtaposition to Traveller presence in a most derogatory manner. Fortunately he left early to a more important engagement at Rushall Olympic.
The truth is Deer are pretty ambivalent to Conifers. Conifers sap nutrients from the ground and the needles provide ground cover preventing the growth of any tasty treats. They are ideally camouflaged to bed down in grass and heather, the provision of a heathland corridor between Hednesford and Sutton Park would no doubt increase the predominance of Deer as a herding animal they do like to roam the plains.
The over riding impression I got from the meeting was the intransigent attitude and the total unwillingness to listen to the rationale, the facts or the presentation. There was a loud cry for a public meeting which in all probability would become a public lynching. We got so much wrong in the 20th Century, this is about putting something right. I think the people of the area need to keep an open mind and consider the facts before buying the rope.
Any attempt to parody the profound words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller is at best in poor taste and could be considered as sacrilegious. Anyway, here goes...
First they came for the forests, and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a tree.
Then they came for the badgers, and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a badger.
Then they came for the deer and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a dirty great big stag with sharp pointy antlers.
It requires an extraordinary amount of brass to construct the neck of a politician. Ironically, the weaker the intellect, the absence of spine and the more dubious the morality, the more brass is needed. Only the purest, most precious brass is reserved for the necks of creatures that call themselves Liberal Democrats.
It is a given that the Tory party is nasty and that the millionaire Conservative front bench are intent on returning to the dark ages of gentry and peasantry, master and servant.
Here we are the last entry for my year of blogging. Did I get there? Is there ever a there to get there to? do you have to understand there to be there? In summary, sort of, probably and definitely not.
I started this project when I was at a particularly low ebb, I had just been released from hospital after a temporary loss of vision, though no reason could be established for the blindness attack I do believe it was stress based. I was feeling extremely depressed and could feel me disappearing inside myself. The blog was created as a diary and as a therapy, something to look back on and to hopefully chart progress through the medium of word. Looking back I don’t think I could have picked a more interesting year, not that I really needed interesting as the Chinese curse concludes, interesting is a double edged sword.
Quite often you see celebrities on chat shows saying that they can’t watch themselves on playback and I always believed they were being drama junkies feigning modesty however I have had to rethink that conclusion as I can’t bring myself to read my blog, it makes me squirm and get annoyed with myself. Perhaps in years to come I will be able to reflect upon 2012 and be grateful for the record I kept of a year in my life.
The year started out with me being unwell and despite the blindness lasting half an hour or so and the headaches for a few days, I felt wrong for weeks. Almost like I had been seriously ill. The early days of the blog kept my mind working in a positive way and the idle moments spent watching the birds out of the patio doors developed from a desire to know what species were visiting into a full blown and enthralling hobby. I suspect that most people wouldn’t consider it an exciting and interesting pastime but the sheer joy of watching animals in their own environment and the thrill of seeing something completely new is unbridled. Of course it would later transpire that this interest developed not only as a hobby but became the connection into a wider love of the environment culminating in getting involved with Biodiveristy, from there we got back into machinations of committees and organisation by being involved in the formation of the Friends of Park Lime Pits. All this was an aid to regaining a self confidence that I was sure I had lost as well as giving me happy thoughts to drive out the negative ones. Ultimately the return to politics became inevitable caused in part by the need to protect endangered and vital staff within the Countryside services team at Walsall Council. This probably wouldn’t have occurred had the accident not happened but going blind and becoming a twitcher were certainly catalysts.
I hadn’t been back at work long when the events of March 1st occurred. An enjoyable ride into work in unseasonably pleasant weather turned into a nightmare on the way back. A momentary lapse of concentration by a driver wanting to join a busy dual carriageway left me on the road my elbow shattered. The story is still writing itself as I await further surgery but the twists and turns of the plot would make a great book, unfortunately Brian Glover isn’t around to play my part in the film.
The treatment I received from the Police, the Hospital and the Drivers insurers beggar belief, the blog was the perfect outlet to vent my feelings as I muddled through from day to day, addled on pain killers as angry at the world. I had been a victim of circumstance and policy. Linda started a campaign to seek justice as I fell apart, I couldn’t face my future, I couldn’t handle the pain and lost faith in a system I believed in. The publicity found me attacked by bottom dwelling scum who hide in the murky corners of the internet, their abuse and suggestions of suicide took me to an all time low. Suicide made sense. It would be far easier to go away, end the pain and finish the uncertain future. The publicity also brought action and the action brought change. The Police admitted that we hadn’t been served as we could have expected and they drilled down into the issue and took the policy apart. The result was that no cyclist or pedestrian should find themselves alone and wanting at the time when they are at their most vulnerable. Getting this wasn’t only a victory, it was vindication and it was reassuring that we made a difference. The Hospital took months to decide I was a liar but that wasn’t a surprise, it is far better to hide the truth than admit change is required. The insurance company are handling the matter as expected, they have admitted full responsibility and are not prepared to act on that. It is now with the courts and in time I might see some money. For now we will struggle on .
My mental health picked up, which was a good job and with a win or two behind us I began feeling more positive and less introspective, the outside world that I had shunned for years had become a hostile place ruled by hideously evil politicians and I had a lot of time on my hands to get angry about how other people were being treated because no matter how beat up I was, there are millions worse off than me. I became increasingly political, the old, long forgotten me came out of hiding, dusted off my red flag and started getting vocal. The memories of the years spent in the Labour Party and as a union official came flooding back to me as did the passion to stand up and be counted. Having been on the edge, the fear of being singled out is no longer there. I might not make much difference but if I can piss a few off on the way then it will be worth it. So whilst there is no political party to represent my views I have become active in the Union and recently gained the position of Area Health and Safety representative and it appears this is just the right moment to become a pain in the arse as we have just learned of the proposed closure of our workplace. I won’t go down without a fight and I hope I don’t stand on my own against it.
As I recovered from my physical injuries and found my new limitations I lost a hobby I have done on and off for 35 years and thought I had lost one I have loved for the last twenty. I expect I could ride a bike, it would hurt and I wouldn’t be in total control, not that I really was to start with but the largest bar is in between my ears. I don’t think I could ride again without invoking a hysterical state every time a car came past. I still love cycling, being off work for all that time allowed me to watch all the classic races and all the track cycling and I loved it but fell to pieces when an accident occurred. I don’t feel the need or the desire to expose myself to that level of stress. The opposite applied to archery, I had every intention of getting back out there as soon as possible if not sooner, the elbow would be an inconvenience at worst. When it became apparent that I physically couldn’t shoot, I was destroyed. I tried all manner of ways which were met with negativity and aggression by the sport’s ruling body. Ultimately the end of the dream came when the consultant told me I must not shoot if I wanted my elbow to last the ten years he predicted it would. Time went by and it became an obsession almost to find a way to get back out there. This ended up with Merlin Archery kindly lending me a bow to see if I could shoot wrong handed. The exercise wasn’t a total success but it did provide the solution that I could shoot right handed if I used an Olympic recurve. The next day I was on the phone to another archery shop who helped me out by taking my crossbow off me and letting me walk out the shop with everything I needed to resume shooting. It has taken months to develop a consistent, pain free technique but we are now at a point where I am looking to start competing again which is something I am thrilled about, although I am struggling to work out where I will find the time now that saving the planet and rescuing the population from Conservatism and bad employers.
Over the last 365 days I have seen so much change in me and aside from one change every other is positive and it is no exaggeration to say that none of this would have been possible without the my wonderful, beautiful and amazing fiancé, Linda. She has done everything and more to make my life easy and my recovery the best it can be. She has shown support and love, she has provided strength and understanding and asked for nothing in return. I really am so very lucky and so very happy. Thank you my darling.
So all that is left is to consider then next 365. I won’t be writing a daily blog but that doesn’t mean I won’t be regularly pounding the keys and whilst idiots run the country and the poor and infirm are harassed for daring to share the same oxygen as the ruling class, while nature provides wonders to be amazed over, there will always be something to comment on.
For those of you who have read this diatribe on a regular basis, who have taken the time to care and to comment and those of you that have become good friends I thank you for the honour and with that “Getting There” is signing off.
Oh blimey,I can vouch for Uku amber ale, for it is pretty amazing stuff. Tonight I said goodbye to Alec, Ale, Arik or whatever name he is prepared to go by. He has given a lifetime to the railway and to be fair his last contribution was on the most thankless position in the office. I am not ashamed to say I envy his ability to take his towel and throw it in the face of management. I possibly envy the fact that he is retiring to a far hotter climate and cheaper beer but I would forsake Thailand for Shropshire if push comes to shove.
Anyway, if this makes no sense I’m not surprised and you were warned yesterday.
Being amongst fellow railway persons it doesn’t take much before the conversation heads into the subject of the railways and whilst I am not a typical lover of the railway I do have a respect for the industry that has provided an income for me for over five decades. Every time you put a group of railwaymen together in a social environment they are able to solve all the issues that affect the smooth running of the system and whilst alcohol plays a large part in the process, the overriding conclusion is that the problem lies with technology. In the old days a signalling problem was a snapped cable to a signal , today it is a panel failure affecting 20 miles of track. In the old days a door fault was a single egress to a coach,now it is a unit taken out of service and five hundred unhappy punters on a platform. In the old days a driver having a hissy fit involved either five minutes whilst he calmed down or at worst a replacement being dragged out of a card school in a mess room of spare men, now it involves a line stoppage for an hour or so, downloads and a hundred hindsight merchants proving how they could have done it better.
The upshot is for all the high tech progress and the billion pound investments, we could have done it better without university graduates and private investment if we had been allowed. After all the only real thing people complained about was the British Rail sandwich and now I suspect the consensus of rail users would be grateful to complain about the food. The ironic thing is that increasingly desperate improvements are promised and in reality the public only require is a reliable service.
Anyway, I am failing to make sense and nothing I say will change anything so I had best start working on my hangover.
There is something wonderful about seeing the Springwatch team at work as their alter ego Winterwatch. Their enthusiasm for wildlife goes far beyond the often feigned interest shown on the other resident BBC wildlife offering. Most who enjoy the outdoors know that there is always something wonderful to see, no matter what the weather or the time of year but for those, like me, who are relatively new to all this , the programme brings a sense of anticipation that everything is going to get great again and I can’t wait.
There is so much that I want to do that I fear there isn’t enough time to fit it all in, then again it doesn’t all have to happen this year, or the next. We have decided to join a local Birdwatching club, not only to get access to what appear to be prime sites but to learn more about the activity. It was obvious from the recent bird walk that I know far less than I thought I knew and I didn’t think I knew very much to start with.
I spent another enjoyable shift at work, the conversation rarely strayed too far from the upheaval that is planned to occur in two years time. Yesterday I wrote on the subject of trade unionism and solidarity, determined to avoid rolling over and playing dead, today nothing had changed, the same defeatist phrases abounded and it made me think that early advice of change is both a blessing and a curse, two years is a long time to worry about the future and a long time to accept capitulation. It is also a goodly amount of time to put together strategies for a defence. I know how I would rather spend the time, hopefully I can convince enough colleagues to consider a similar decision.
Tomorrow after work, Arik is having his third and possibly final leaving do, he made a very wise decision to get the hell out and took early retirement. He is obviously missing everyone and keeps providing the setting and excuse for after work get togethers. He has also generously offered to get his wallet out and buy the drinks and crisps. Top man. Therefore I may make even less sense than usual in my penultimate entry in a year of blogging, Be warned it may well contain ultra loony left wing bollox and overly sentimental rubbish.