365/365 The last word

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.

The Plastic Hippo

Oliver Twist, or The Parish Boy`s Progress, was published in monthly instalments between February 1837 and April 1839. Today, with both national and local government harming children and young people, Dickens could have published his critique of the Poor Laws, class and child poverty yesterday.

From day one of this malignant coalition government, it was clear that we would be returning to an era of workhouses, kicking beggars, demonising the infirmed and denying education to all but the privileged, wealthy few. With men as irredeemably insane as Ian Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Eric Pickles and Michael Gove introducing new poor law legislation to dismantle the Welfare State, the only surprise is how quickly and how far they have gone in achieving the destruction of fairness and equality of opportunity.

Closing Surestart centres, scrapping EMA, increasing tuition fees, forcing Academy status on unwilling schools, politicising the curriculum and inventing then increasing…

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In the early 1800’s the poor and working class lived in fear of almost everything. Hostile environments, hostile bosses who paid with one hand and took back with the other and expected those in their employ to be grateful for the scraps that remained. Those that showed any dissent were at best blacklisted, imprisoned or transported. Any form of mutual support was illegal no doubt most will have heard of the Luddites, or the term ” Throwing a spanner in the works” , the ill educated, backward thinking thugs who did their best to halt the progress of technology, however few have heard of the Peterloo Massacre, where the Army was turned on  a public demonstration in Manchester. In an exercise of spin doctoring, before there was even a name for it, the loss of 15 innocent lives to the Cavalry charge  was classed as an act of dispersal. This wasn’t publicly changed until 2007, when the commemorating plaque was changed to reflect a massacre.  A few years later, the birth of Trade Unions occurred in the  little  Dorset hamlet of Tolpuddle. The farm labourers formed a Friendly Society to contest the continued reduction in their wages. The oath they took was deemed illegal and six were sentenced to Transportation. The reaction was that 800,000 signed a petition of support which led to their early release.

For the first time the workers voices were heard and on that a proud Trade Union movement developed and gradually pay and conditions improved. By standing in unity, the working class forced these begrudged improvements and  legislations  to foster and protect those in employment. In time and on the backs of united acts such as the Hunger marches and the Jarrow march (on which my maternal Grandfather took part) demonstrated how socialism could work and this led on to the development of  the Welfare State, Health and Safety in the workplace and the modern era of State Education.

Of course a workforce with good health, good education and a fair day’s pay is the antithesis of Conservative idyll and it has been the only agenda item in Tory minds since the bad old days of Winter’s of discontent, power cuts, blockades, Red Robbo and Arthur Scargill. Thatcher set about destroying 100 years of solidarity, using every tool at her disposal to ensure the working class would be put back into Victorian times, where health, wealth and education would again become the remit of the rich. This was done with the help of the Police, the Press and with clever inducements such as large redundancy payments and the “right to buy” the workers themselves. Once the divide set in, and the home owning middle class had something to protect, the united stance was destroyed. Then legislation followed to prevent the outrageous excesses of Trade Unionism. No longer was it necessary to belong and very soon belonging became ridiculed.

So here we are now, afraid of losing what we have with little to defend it. We accede in an attempt to maintain, with no hope of improving and there is no voice for the common man. We fear for our health and watch our pensions and working conditions diminish and pray to whatever you hold dear for good health.  This week, we learned of major upheaval at work, this upheaval wasn’t mentioned to the unions and the method to which it was circulated indicated a fait acompli with complete contempt for the established lines of communication and all I hear is “what can we do?” and “we have to accept this”. Well, we may have to accept this but this doesn’t mean we cannot mutually support each other, get a back bone and get the best deal for those who will be thrown into upheaval and inconvenienced. Why not make it difficult? Why not ensure every issue is formally addressed and answered and stand up for ourselves. If we don’t it is just another slippery slope back into slavery.

For those not in the union, who happily accept the negotiated wage rises. For those that argue the Union does nothing for them, the Union is its’ members, if you aren’t happy, stand up and say so because nothing will change if you don’t,  the myth will perpetuate and life will just get worse.


Just a very short blog tonight, after finishing at 0600 this morning I am back on again at 0600 tomorrow and I am feeling like a pile of poo. I am off to bed as soon as this is finished and I am struggling to type comprehensibly.

I got up early so that we could at least try and make something of my day off, not that is can really count as one, being a mere interlude between shifts. We went over to the RSPB reserve at Sandwell which appeared mostly frozen. There wasn’t much activity, plenty of Pochard and Wigeon but nothing spectacular. There was supposedly a Goldeneye out there but I couldn’t spot it. There was also talk of Snipe and a Water Rail knocking about the margins but again they also proved elusive.

It was a good day to be out, although I was wishing a hip flask had arrived in my Christmas stocking as it really was rather chilly. With an hour or so of daylight remaining we drove over to Swan Pool and took a walk up to Priory Woods. Again there was plenty of activity but nothing much to write home about. We were able to watch a Treecreeper going about his business from very close range but there was no sign of the Kingfisher and Goldcrest we spotted on our last visit.

So that was the day done and my bed beckons, with any luck I will be snowed in and unable to attend for duty, only time will tell.


Well I am in the process of concluding my last night shift and all appears well as we place the dust cover over the network. The engineer’s trains are mostly in place to start tarting it up for the week to come. Hopefully the peace will remain although three good shifts on the trot is an unusual occurrence. 
The day was spent doing very little, I played the ukelele for a couple of hours, when I say played that is actually bigging it up somewhat but I enjoy it. The main advance in strumming a tune in the twenty five years since I stopped is the readily available access to tabs for songs. In days gone by it was a trip to Hudson’s to buy the sheet music and then try and play along to the record. The invention of the cassette player made this easier to do but it is nothing compared to the revelation that is YouTube and the host of tab sites.  It is so easy and such fun.  I ended up doing a gig with the Levellers from the comfort of the armchair and using live clips I even got applause.  That never happened before. I can’t wait for payday so I can look at getting a guitar as I have a gig with Stone Sour lined up. Even in these enlightened times there is no place for a Uke in thrash rock, not yet anyway.