A Trumped Up Charge

It strikes me that the Republican Party has something of a problem. For eight years, the most vocal part of the party has spent it’s time questioning Obama’s birthplace, the exact shade of black of his skin, his religion and whether or not he is a gay communist who funded his youthful drug habit through male prostitution. And attempting to block everything he does regardless of its merits. The rational part of the party appears to have spent it’s time trying to appease the former. And no one has questioned what direction the party should take. Exactly what does the GOP stand for? What are their core values and ethics? How do these translate into policies in today’s USA? Continue reading “A Trumped Up Charge”

Winter Blues

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English weather is what it is. This morning was bright and pleasant. It’s now blowing a gale and chucking down rain. Later it might snow. Or be sunny. Who knows? Last week at Weymouth’s famed beach it looked like a lovely spring day. But most definitely felt like February. The problem is, even come summer, it is likely to feel like February.

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?

The date has been set and the campaigning has begun. I have a few thoughts on the debate as to whether or not we should leave the EU. I have a few observations on the situation too.

  • Jeremy Corbyn is right. This referendum wasn’t created to debate our membership of the EU, although the consequence of the outcome could obviously alter our relationship with the continent. This referendum is really about Cameron appeasing a wildly divided Conservative party, which has on several occasions in the last 30 years pretty much self imploded over the debate regarding our place in (or out of) Europe. He wanted to limit the defections to UKIP prior to the 2015 election. A better tact would have been to let those who wanted out of Europe to get out of the party and bring in fresh blood.

Continue reading “Should We Stay Or Should We Go?”

Pay Day

Pay day on the railway is, like much of the actual transport system itself, still beholden to antiquated practices of yesteryear. I am paid on a four weekly basis rather than a calendar monthly basis. It took me a while to work out whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. Ive come to a conclusion. Actually, I came to a conclusion a long time ago. It’s a great thing. Here’s why.

  • Pay days are equally spread throughout the year, with exactly the same length of time between wage packets. It’s nice to have a regular and dependable pay day. I no longer hold a grudge against January, March, May, July, August, October or December for having the cheek to have 31 days.
  • I’m less likely to go overdrawn at the bank. All my bills are paid monthly, but my pay check arrives a couple of days earlier each month, which means by the time I’m running out of cash at the end of the calendar cycle, my employers have topped up my coffers.
  • That sinking feeling when you have an expensive weekend ahead. And pay day this month falls on the Monday. Yeah, I don’t have that anymore.
  • Being paid four weekly means that I get 13 pay days per year instead of twelve. So once a year, I have a spare pay check to spoil myself with!

But there’s one more thing. Today. Leap Day. An extra day inserted into the calendar once every four years. I’m at work today, and being paid for my efforts. Unlike everyone on a calendar monthly pay day cycle. You’re working today for free. I know, how much does that suck? As if  it isn’t already bad enough having to be at work on a Monday. And now I’ve come along and pointed out that you’re working it for free. Gratis. Poor nada. Man, it sucks to be you. 🙂

Spit and Sawdust

If you are hoping for a tale of drinking and debauchery in a traditional olde worlde pub, then I am going to disappoint you. Wrong type of spit and sawdust establishment. Instead, let me introduce you to a world that is altogether crazier that anything the depraved mind of the village alcoholic could ever dream up. The spit is Mudeford. The sawdust represents the wooden huts that have been stacked up along the sandy stretch of beach. The madness is the price that some people are prepared to fork out for one of these ramshackle buildings, which are only ever one big storm away from turning in a new British Atlantis.

When working out what sort of value for money these huts represent, I had a look at what you’d need to pay out for a property in the most expensive cities on plant earth.  Just to give these huts a little perspective. At about £16,000 per square metre for a piece of Mudeford real estate, only Monaco appears to be more expensive. Given that they have no running water, nor any electricity (unless the owner has fitted some solar panels) they are even worse value when you consider that you wouldn’t use them all year round.

Great American Railway Journeys

I’ve been on a few scenic railway journeys in my life. I have done one of the greatest train journeys of them all in fact. Back in 2003 I boarded El Chepe at Los Mochis. The very name Los Mochis sounds like some sort of sizzling hell hole from a Star Wars movie, inhabited by bandits and home to all sorts of illegal trades and generally skullduggery. And, quite frankly, it is as bad it sounds, or at least my experience of it was. The train ride to Creel, though, was magnificent. I’ve written about this before, more than once.

In a couple of months I have another  great railway journey lined up. It’s a very special trip on a special train that will travel along tracks through countryside that has been made famous in all sorts of movies. It’s often voted as the greatest railway journey in the world. I’ll have to wait and see if there is any truth to that. Hopefully there will be more fabulous railway trips over the coming years. One of the big benefits of my job are the travel benefits afforded not only to myself, but Mrs P too. We get free use on the network I work for, and a 75% discount on the rest of the national network. In August, once I’ve completed a full year of service, those benefits will extend across Europe.

I’ve always liked rail journeys. Even other people’s rail journeys. There’s a programme I watch regularly that reminds me of life in Mexico City. Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys. He used his early 20th century Bradshaws guide to tour the UK on the train. I spent many hours on the metro or in cafes watching his television series. And now I can recreate them for myself. He’s also done a series on European travel. But now he is back with yet another series. If you haven’t yet guessed where, then you didn’t read the title of this post very carefully. Perhaps you’d like to join him on his trip? Someone has kindly, and probably rather illegally, uploaded the series onto YouTube. Enjoy it while it lasts. 


The Commute

The mass commute must be a relatively modern creation. I suspect that few people will refer to its invention in the same breath as sliced bread or the wheel. By all accounts, most people seem to loathe their daily commute. But not me. I love my commute. I always have done, whether I was living in London or Mexico Ciy or here in Bournemouth. It’s a bit of me time.

These days I have a fairly varied commute. One of the joys of being a relief clerk, is that my place of work can change on a daily basis. The times change too. Sometimes I need to drive to work, setting out from home at 5am. The streets are all mine, other than the occasional fox slinking from driveway to driveway in urban areas.

Once I hit the countryside, I am more likely to see deer or rabbits grazing at the roadside. Some of them get closer to the roadside than is wise, and they become road rugs, until they are eventually squished into oblivion over a period of days or weeks. This is the only form I’ve seen a badger. Which is a shame.

Most of the time, though, I take the train to work. I might turn east out of my home station and travel into the heart of the New Forest. More usually I turn west, into deepest, darkest Dorset. Let’s take that journey today. Through picturesque woodlands, well groomed farmlands, past one of the worlds largest natural harbours, across flooded plains and the rivers responsible for all that excess water.

From my little office on the train, from where I write this very post, I can gaze out at the scenery. It changes every day. Today the sun is up and the sky is blue, but the grass and hedgerows are still glistening white from last nights heavy frost. The smooth undisturbed waters of the bay have a surreal glow in the early morning sun.  Trees and pylons cast long, monstrous shadows across wild, untended heathland.

The train stops nine times along the way. But today I am on board for the full duration. My final destination , an hour after I set out, will be in a seaside town which gained temporary fame as the home of sailing in the 2012 Olympics. Locally, the place has become more famous, infamous even, for crime.

If the prowling chavs don’t manage to slip your lunch money out of your back pocket for their heroin fix, then a seagull will rob you of your lunch. British seagulls are big ballsy birds and will have your fish n chips away from your grasp in an instant.

Apple Pay

So. Apple Pay. I like my Apple devices, I really do. In fact I love my iPhone. True love. Wait till you see what I’ve bought my iPhone 6s for Valentines day. But that’s another story. Back to Apple Pay. What a gimmick. A pointless, unnecessary marketing gimmick. Or so I thought. But Apple has gradually won me over. I’ve seen the light. Why did I ever doubt them? The first revelation was at a McDonalds. I’d ordered my meal, but then discovered I’d left my wallet back at work. My lunch was about to be aborted when it occurred to me – I had registered a debit card on my iPhone. So I paid with my iPhone. Happy days! And a Happy Meal to go with it.

Now I’ve gotten used to paying with it. I stand in queues waiting to purchase my shopping, killing the time with a little bit of Candy Crush. Suddenly I’m at the front, the cashier has rung through my items and it’s time to pony up. Do I reach into my pocket, pull out a wallet, fight to get a card out etc etc? Nope, I just swipe my phone and lets the magical Cupertino Money Pixies do their stuff. How did I ever manage before?

I’d been wondering though. On the London Underground, if I tap in with my debit card and tap out with my iPhone (using the same card), would the system recognise them as the same card and charge me accordingly? Or would it read these as two payment methods and charge me twice? My hunch is that I would be charged twice. I can report that I have now made this error and can reveal the result. You’re charged twice. So don’t do it. It’s an expensive way to travel. Fortunately, I have read somewhere that the new iPhone 7 has a special app called Aladdin that turns the device into a Magic Carpet, which will save everyone a fortune on travel costs.

 

Colour Me Happy

Every now and then I come across/am given a handful of old photos. Because I am, rather sadly, quite old, some of those old photos are black and white. Which is cool. I suppose.

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But I prefer colour. Or at least, I like to make them colour. When I have the time to play around with Photoshop, anyway. To do a really good job of it takes quite a bit of dedication. I don’t seem to have enough time to spare these days to be really dedicated, so I do a quick rush job of it. This one took about 10 minutes. Meh. It’ll do.

Nan and I Colour

Rapist in Chief

I view politics very much through a British looking glass. You wouldn’t expect anything else. This means I’m inevitably going to be viewed as a commie by our American cousins and a capitalist pig by our Russian ex-friends. Both are simplistic labels proferred by simplistic minds. My political line of thought is easily summed up. If it’s too big to fail, essential infrastructure, a matter of national security, a social service or where human decency overrides the need for profit, it should be government run. Otherwise, we the people should be left to get on with it. There’s the ‘left’ and the ‘libertarian’ in me in in two shortish sentences. Of course, those two sentences are wide open to interpretation. You can have a crack at this quiz, if you care to. It’s pretty low brow, but still…

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With this in mind, you can probably imagine how I view US politics. Obama is not a socialist. Sanders is not a communist. Neither are even close. You guys really need to meet Jeremy Corbyn, our new-ish Labour leader. Some people would suggest Sanders is an American style Corbyn in many regards. I like Corbyn. He’s principled, decent and in the politics game to try to make a difference, rather than for his own furtherment. His analysis of real world politics and issues is spot on. Probably because he lives in the real world. Yet, I probably won’t vote for him. As things stand, I’ll vote Liberal. Because Corbyn is a weak leader whose specialty is protest not policy.

He’s a good guy in the wrong job. But he is not Britain’s Sanders. He is our Trump. You might not see how such a comparison works if you look at their respective policies and opinions. They couldn’t be more different. But policies don’t matter one jot if you don’t get a shot at the top job. What Trump and Corbyn do share is the ability to tear their own parties apart, to alienate the key floating voters and to gift their opponents the next election. This is the main reason behind my opposition to Corbyn.

My assumption, though, is that Trump will fall down in the primaries. He’ll get to the blue states, who’ll pick a moderate Republican and send Trump back to the tower. His tower, sadly. Not ours. We no longer behead crooks anyway. Trump is nuts. Despicable is not too strong a word.  He most definitely doesn’t live in the real world. It’s worrying that anyone who does would offer him their support. Frankly, Ted Cruz is no better.

You couldn’t make a parody of Trump. He is a walking talking parody already. Where does one even begin to list his misdemeanors? He’s figuratively raped the bank accounts of Americans and other citizens and governments around the world for decades. But perhaps more of a concern is the literal rape of his ex-wife. Is this just being ignored in the US? Have I missed something? Seriously, what’s the deal? There’s been no conviction, as is oft the case with this particular crime. But dear old Ivana was pretty clear in a statement under oath. He raped her. Then he gagged her through the courts. One of the joys of ‘freedom’. Can I get a hallelujah?

Nowadays, she says that he didn’t literally or criminally rape her. What does that even mean? He had her permission to rape her? Isn’t that sort of activity more commonly known as consensual intercourse? Is this just a British / American linguistic anomaly? Help me out guys. But I guess, more importantly, help yourselves out. You are the ones with a vote to cast in this election, not I. Don’t swallow the audio-visual Rophenol soundbites he’s throwing your way. Don’t give this guy your consent. He will shaft you all if he gets the opportunity.

Sunrise

I took a stroll along the River Avon in Ringwood a morning or two ago. Just to check out the sunrise. And to play with a Christmas gift. I’d gotten a Hoya ND10 filter. I already had one, but as they are stackable I thought I’d get another and see what sort of light stopping power they have when combined. It turns out they have plenty of stopping power. The image below is an eight minute exposure, and it was still awfully dark. I could easily get a fifteen minute exposure out of them in fairly light conditions. Double that or more in very low light.

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The real treat of my walk evaded my camera, sadly. An otter surfaced in the river no more than two feet away from me to have a splash and a roll. By the time I’d got my filters off, the remote shutter release unplugged and the setting flicked to auto he was 10 feet away from me. By the time I’d raised my camera and focused….he was gone. I don’t blame him though. It was a crisp, icy morning. An otter gotta keep moving to keep warm.

 

Happy New Year

My new year wishes come late, I know. I blame my inner Mexican. But then again, everything tends to be delivered late, if at all, on this blog these days. I’ve tired of blogging. Or at least of the sort of blogging I used to do. Long, rambling posts. It requires thought, time and effort. None of which I have spare to dedicate to this little part of the web. You’ve all noticed, I know. It’s there in the stats. The visitors graph reads like the value of the peso. It’s been tumbling year on year since 2011, the year I returned home from my six year stay in Mexico.

It turns out that whilst people liked reading about adventures in Mexico City, they are less interested in hearing about life in Bournemouth. I understand. Entirely. I can demonstrate this with a couple of images from the annual report that WordPress automatically generates. Firstly, let’s look at how often I post these days, shall we? Bearing in mind that last year there were 122 posts. In 2013 there were 146. In 2012 I crafted 196 literary masterpieces….



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Yes, it’s a sorry story, isn’t it? And it has to be said, if I’m not writing anything new, then visitor numbers are going to fall. But let’s move on to the next graph, which rather shows that the dire state of affairs that the Mexile currently finds itself in is not entirely down to a lack of new content. Let’s have a looky see what visitors do read once they’ve gotten here…

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Well, three of those top five were all written when I still lived and played in Mexico City. The other two? Well, they do appear to be about Mexico. I think my medicinal advice on how to clear up a bit of psoriasis of the scalp must be my most read post ever. By some margin. That’s two or three years running that it has topped the charts. I wonder if anyone ever gave it a go? And if so, did it work for them?

Anyway, despite all this doom and gloom, some of you still take the time to look in and see whats going on now and again. So the final graph. It’s the biggie, too. Who wins the prize for leaving the most comments this year?

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Why it’s Kim G. For the fourth year running. Well done Kim. William made a good go of it though, pushing up to second place from last year’s fourth spot. He swaps places with Norm, who tumbles to fourth.  Steve is consistent. Third again. Colm is a new entry displacing….me. Apparently, I was the fifth most frequent commenter last year. That, I think was an error.

But this is all a bit by the by. You see, as I mentioned, I’m a bit bored of blogging. Especially now that I have a new job with plenty of overtime available. And money to spend on going out when I have a day off. This all makes blogging feel like work instead of a hobby. I’ve no intention of retiring from blogging, mind you. If this were a job, then I’ve moved from being a part-timer to a zero hours contract. Shorter posts. Published less frequently. Mostly photos. Such is life.