Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Post Brexit – we head for Tatsfield Village.

I didn't get out on Saturday due to personal commitments, and while Phil had initially been up for a ride, he went down with some kind of flash sore throat. But having met him during the week I told him I wouldn't be going until Sunday – so we never saw him.

Andy and I met at the green as usual and decided to head for Tatsfield Village, probably because Tatsfield Bus Stop is still in a state of disrepair since a car decided to plough into it a few weeks ago.
Andy was out on Saturday too...

The weather was good, which is amazing when you think of all the rain we've had in June, some say the wettest June 'since records began'. For me the weather is reminiscent of 2012 and, looking ahead, the phrase is 'sunshine and showers'. So far we've avoided a major soaking.

It was our first 'post-Brexit' ride and we both tried to avoid the subject, although once we'd brought out the tea and biscuits, we got started. I'd written a rather angry and incendiary piece for the blog in which bad language featured strongly. I was firmly in the 'remain' camp and while Andy admitted that he did waver, he voted out. Despite being on opposite sides, we did have plenty of common ground and after listening to some of Andy's views I did go back and revise my article. In fact, it's been revised numerous times since it was first posted last week.

I'm quite depressed about the result of the referendum, but I suppose at some stage I'll have to knuckle down and forget it. My last few words on the subject would be that I don't think it's going to be good for the UK and it doesn't make me feel 'proud to be British'. Phil, incidentally, feels the same way.

Now, of course, we're all 'Little Englanders'. I must remember to organise a subscription for the Daily Mail and, of course, consider membership of the British National Party. After all, we don't want any of those foreigners coming over here and nicking all our jobs, do we? I'll also have to remember to harp on about how England was a better place in the 1950s.

Article 50 has yet to be triggered, so officially we're still in the EU and are likely to remain in for the next two years while the next nob cheese of the Tory party sets about negotiating a better deal for England. He or she, of course, will be mindful of the phrase, "Let's Make Great Britain Great Again", which, in my mind is impossible. One clear example of how Great Britain isn't great, of course, is the football. The England team is so shit it can't even beat a bunch of Icelandic people who only have one decent player, apparently. We're now out of Euro 2016 as well as the European Union. Well, however rubbish the Icelandic team is supposed to be, it isn't as rubbish as England. Roy Hodgson has resigned.
Let's make Great Britain great again! Photo credit: The Sun.
But there are similarities between England and Iceland. Let's not forget that we both have corrupt prime ministers who have resigned after being rumbled by the public.

What else is there to say? Oh yes, the leadership election for a new arse face to run the Tory party. Eight contenders and, with the the exception of Teresa May, they're all Jeremy Hunts. In fact, Hunt has thrown his hat into the ring.

There's a lot of bad feeling in the country at the moment and that might even trigger a 'flash' general election. The problem, of course, is that the Labour Party is in a state of disarray and Jeremy Corbyn is standing fast rather than doing the right thing and standing down. I say get Alan Johnson or Hilary Benn in place – or both of them as leader and deputy leader respectively – and then boot the Tories out. They've got to go.

I console myself with the fact that all the extreme right wingers who voted for Brexit (none of them would have voted the other way) will be sorely disappointed to discover that nobody with a tanned skin or a foreign accent will be queuing for a train, ship or plane out of the country. In fact, there's a strong chance that more will be coming in rather than going out, certainly over the next two years. This, of course, will trigger racist attacks (there's already been a few) and that in turn will make the populous realise that those who voted to leave the EU are grouped in with a load of shaven-headed, fat, tattooed, football shirt-wearing nutters. Stupid, uneducated people and OAPs – they voted Brexit. It's a dire situation.

But Brexit aside, there's still cycling. I'm looking forward to the weekend and possibly a ride to Westerham – or even two rides to Westerham.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

We're out of the EU. What now for the country?

At 0416hrs on 24 June 2016 I found myself wide awake. The daylight had penetrated the thick curtains and I was fully conscious. Keen to find out how the UK voted in the EU referendum – and confident that we'd still be in – I pressed the 'on' button on my bedside radio and discovered that we had voted to leave. I jumped out of bed, legged it downstairs, put the television on and then found myself both angry and depressed about the decision as the news unfolded.

I thought initially that the bigots had won the day and I was very angry about that. I still am. I know a few 'fervent anti-Europeans' who might be considered 'borderline racist'. People whose anti-European Union stance is predicated on the immigration argument and that age-old dispute we've heard so many times. You know the rap, "Coming over 'ere and nicking all our jobs!"

A lot of Brexiters won't stop blaming immigration for all the country's woes. Immigration and, of course, the European Union, go hand-in-hand in the Brexiter's book. But is it racism? Well, yes and no, but more often than not it's the former. A lot of people with right wing views can quickly be revealed as racists, whether borderline or full-on nazis.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that when I think of 'Brexiters' – those who want out of the European Union, and in particular those who want the UK to leave the EU because of immigration – I consider them to be racist on some level? A sweeping generalisation? Yes, of course. I know other people who voted out and they're not racist and some who say they're not racist, but clearly are.

In my opinion, one of the worst and most dangerous things in the world is nationalism and, at this moment in time, there is a huge surge of it happening globally and it's all based around phrases like 'Let's Make Great Britain Great Again'. Nationalism implies exclusion, us and them, black and white, and there lies the problem. And while the immigration issue is a concern, I can't help but feel that the Brexit camp has more than it's fair share of racists in its ranks.

The media, particularly the right wing tabloid media, play on people's fears and, in a sense, have the potential to stir up racial tension among those ignorant enough to believe everything they read in the newspapers.

I must make it clear, however, that I do understand the non-racist argument about controlling the numbers of people flooding into the country and the fact that, sadly, it seems we have to leave the EU to achieve that objective. In fact, the EU's insistence on 'free movement' of EU citizens, even if it means losing the UK (as it clearly does) shows the outright arrogance of Brussels. Despite wanting the UK to remain a part of the 'club', the bureaucrats of Brussels were simply not prepared to budge on the issue. Result? We've upped sticks and left.

Daily Mail readers were no doubt rejoicing at the referendum result. Little Englanders were too, peering out, perhaps, from behind the net curtains, unaware that the British Government has always had total control over non-EU migrants – those who featured on the recent UKIP poster – and that they are by far the biggest chunk of people coming into the country.

Do you really want this overweight, idiotic buffoon running the country?
I find it hard to hold back the laughter sometimes and this is because it is highly likely there will be very little change to immigration into the UK, certainly not for the next few years. We'll be seeing plenty more burkhas on our streets and I wonder how long it will take those who voted Leave to realise that, on some level or other, they've been conned by those masterminding the Brexit campaign. Already we're hearing about broken promises as some of victorious politicians who spearheaded the Vote Leave charge have admitted that X was a mistake and that Y was simply not true. It's already starting to unravel.

Soon the Brexit voters will realise that nobody is going to 'make Great Britain great again' and will ask: was it ever great? Remain voters might argue that if it wasn't for the Americans we'd all be driving Volkswagens and might go further and describe the Brexiters as a bunch of Captain Mainwarings who think they are something special, something a cut above the rest, but, ultimately, they're just a bunch of inward-looking, small-minded people living on a tiny island separated by just 20-odd miles of sea from mainland Europe – and a huge, single market that we're no longer a part of.

David Cameron – or 'Dodgy Dave' as he will always be known – is the main villain of the piece on this occasion. Scared of losing votes to a vocal UKIP headed by Nigel Farage during the run-up to the 2015 General Election, he offered the electorate a straightforward in-out referendum, purely out of self-interest and self-preservation. He wasn't bothered about the future of the country, he was more concerned about the future of the Tory party.

That said, it was also the arrogance of the political elite that lost it for the Remain camp. They had it on a plate – Farage conceded defeat before I hit the sack on Thursday night – but throughout the campaign they tried to scare and patronise the voting public into voting to remain rather than focus on the benefits of EU membership. Fed up with being talked down to, pissed off with being ignored, and highly suspicious of politicians generally, the British people voted to leave the EU.

Once the campaigning started, it was clear that those voting to remain in the European Union were being led by somebody distrusted by the people. Cameron is widely recognised a master of saying one thing and doing another. We've all heard about his stance on Turkey's future membership of the EU; he wanted them in and was pretty vocal about it. While Turkey's membership was a long, long, long way off, the seemingly more vocal Leave campaign seized upon every opportunity to worry the hell out of the working class vote – 75 million Turks would soon be heading our way, they lied, but everyone believed them because they simply didn't believe anything Cameron and his cronies said.

Nobody is saying that uncontrolled immigration isn't an issue and you don't have to be racist to want to sort something out, but to leave the EU is, in my opinion, not the answer. Better to remain and lead reform from within – but it's too late for that now and who's to say we'd get reform. No, the country will simply have to make the best of it.

Cameron was piss poor as the poster boy for the 'remain' campaign. Let's not forget his tax affairs, another example of him saying one thing – we must cut down on tax evaders/avoiders and close down foreign tax havens – and doing another – conveniently having cash stashed away in a Panama tax haven. Not only does Cameron have no shame, he takes us for fools and that, my friends, played into the hands of the Leave campaigners and their brainwashing call for us to 'vote Leave and take control'. Cameron was a major contributory factor behind the UK leaving the EU.

Cameron's resignation – he leaves in October – brings into question who should be running the country. Just think about it for one minute: Boris Johnson, that fat, Port-swilling Tory buffoon. Can you imagine him in charge of the country? What about Orville? Michael Gove, the man who has co-authored a book on privatising the NHS, the man who played havoc with our education system? Surely not.

Perhaps we should have a general election and attempt to get rid of the lot of them, but what would be the alternative? The Labour Party? What a mess they've made of everything. Sticking with the EU referendum, where were they? What message did they put across? Where was Jeremy Corbyn? Corbyn, a fervent anti-European of old, seems to shirk the media spotlight – not a good stance if you're the leader of a major political party.

What is to become of the country? Nobody knows. Moody's has given the UK a negative credit rating, Ford is considering its position, the pound is on shaky ground, the Chinese are saying Brexit is bad news for globalisation and there's nothing anybody can do about it. The people have spoken and now the country must go forward and make the best of the mess Cameron has left behind.

What we really need is find some decent politicians. Where the fuck are they? Think about it for a moment, there aren't any! They're all a bunch of Jeremy Hunts with nothing but their own self-interests at heart. They're not doing the country any favours.

But how did we get to this point? Why is it that we've exited the EU and it looks as if Donald Trump might just make it to the White House in November? Well, it's simple: nobody is listening. The EU – or rather those Brussels bureaucrats the Brexiters keep going on about, they're not listening. They're fully aware of the fact that the British are concerned about free movement and how the country is being overrun with EU and non-EU migrants as a result, but they're not prepared to budge.  Cameron pledged to keep immigration in the tens of thousands, but over 300,000 are coming in annually and they're over-burdening the system, which can barely cope as it is. Wages are coming down, local landscapes are changing beyond all recognition, but the EU is simply not prepared to meet us half way. Our political leaders aren't listening either and perhaps they never will.

The only good thing about the result is the fact that it's clear we DO live in a democracy. If nothing else, it was a victory for democracy. Shame on all those who went to vote with their own Biro pens in fear that government agents might be altering the ballot papers.

As I mowed the front lawn a neighbour who, like me, voted remain, came over to say that he was still very angry about the result. "Me too," I said. Now it's fair to say that votes were cast, a democratic process was observed and we should, of course, move on. And it goes without saying that we will move on, in time. Right now, though, people are smarting at the news that we're out of the EU. Others are rejoicing.

Why did I vote remain? Because I believed in being a part of Europe and not being isolated and I believed that, going forward, was the right thing to do for future generations. The last thing the British want to be is inward-looking and xenophobic. I get a strong sense, however, that the British people have been conned by the far right and that, sooner or later, the full extent of voting out will become clear to them. I don't think it's a good move, but perhaps I'll be proved wrong.

As I continued to mow the lawn, my elderly neighbour joined me for a brief chat about the garden, but soon we broached the subject of the European Union. "I'm old, I remember the war and being bombed by the Germans and that is why a lot of older people have voted out. But I voted remain, not for myself, but for the younger generation," she said. Good on her, I thought, as I considered the selfish attitude of those I know who have voted out.

Perhaps it's unfair to slag off the Brexit voters just because I voted to remain. Yes, some probably are racist bigots, but there are people out there who are genuinely concerned about the way they believe their country is changing. People living in Boston, Lincolnshire spring to to mind. For them the fact that uncontrolled EU immigration was not going away UNLESS we voted out of the EU gave them little in the way of options. Others were worried about democracy and sovereignity and wanted to 'take back control', a phrase I think I will always abhor. Is it really an argument about democracy and sovereignity? Yes, there are faceless Brussels bureaucrats, but surely they're accountable to the member states?

Watching Glastonbury later on iPlayer James – what a brilliant band – completed most of its set and then one of the band members said he saluted all of those who voted remain, but said good riddance to those who voted out – or words to that effect. There was a huge cheer from the crowd and I couldn't help but think that the country had let down the younger generation once again, but only time will tell on that one.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

"Dip, dip, dog shit, you are not it!" Or how to vote in tomorrow's EU referendum...

I think the entire EU debate has been shameful, particularly the last few days, as the 'in' campaign – aided and abetted by the BBC – has used the murder of Jo Cox MP as a reason for us all to remain in the EU. Alright, not as a 'reason' to remain, but they've certainly tried to make political capital out of it and establish connections between the murderer and the more extreme ends of the Brexit following.

But that was the most recent development; what I can't stand about the entire in/out campaign is the way that the remain camp has steadfastly refused to accept that immigration – a key issue in the eyes of the voting public – cannot be reduced if we remain in the EU. I hate the way that they weedle out of the question and I hate the way that the BBC refuses (often) to take them back to the question, leaving the person who asked the question high and dry.

Bojo and Dodgy Dave – two complete wankers!

Let's look at the Brexit Brigade, especially at last night's big debate in Wembley, where they all continued their quest of brainwashing the public by the constant repetition of the phrase, 'let's take back control'. It's quite obvious that somebody, somewhere, sat them down, came up with the phrase and told them to keep saying it, like in 2010 when the Tories didn't stop going on and on about the mess they'd inherited from the Labour Party.

What about the lies of Boris Johnson, the deception behind the £350 million and other stuff that simply isn't true? In all honesty I don't know where I stand. I've always been keen on remaining in the EU – along the lines of 'the better the devil you know' – but my recent purchase of Noam Chomsky's Who Rules the World? has changed my view a little bit. The fact that 'the establishment' – and I'm talking globally now – abhors true democracy unless it meets with their social and economic objectives is worth thinking about. The American establishment often talks about 'the world' in the sense that 'the world agrees that X, Y and Z...' but 'the world', argues Chomsky, is basically the US and the UK – likewise the 'international community'.

The US, for example, doesn't want true democracy in the Middle East because it knows that the vast majority of the Arab people are against the Americans, it's only the elite in the region who say everything is fine where the Americans are concerned (and that's all to do with money).

So, back to the EU, which Chomsky also believes has no interest in real democracy – look at the way Greece has been treated, he argues, but also look at the whole 'unelected officials' element of the EU and how TTIP has been negotiated behind closed doors and how Cecilia Malmstrom (the chief TTIP negotiator who is unelected) has told the media that she does not take her mandate from the European people. No, she takes her mandate from corporate lobbyists.

To quote Chomsky from Who Rules the World? "As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, and diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome."

The above quote is very important, especially where the EU referendum is concerned. With real unemployment at depression levels, says Chomsky, the bankers are getting richer and richer and if they mess up they can always rely upon the taxpayer to bail them out. But to keep the public away from the truth – that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top one per cent of the population (think CEOs and hedge fund managers) – diversions are required to keep the masses 'subdued'.

Teachers, says Chomsky, are always fair game, but so are immigrants, especially at times of economic crisis. It is important for the establishment to create in the populous a sense that 'our country is being taken away from us' – think, "Let's Make Great Britain Great Again' – and the idea that the white population will soon become a minority.

As Chomsky argues, "One can understand the anger of aggrieved individuals, but the cruelty of the policy is shocking."

And then remember that the remain campaign has been backed by the big banks and that the whole idea of free borders is designed to encourage immigration and keep wages low in the process. In short, I've started to view the EU in a different light.

Caroline Lucas (the Green Party) annoyed me last night (on the big Wembley debate) – and again, nobody questioned what she was saying. She said that open borders work both ways and argued that it was amazing how we can all up sticks at any time and work anywhere in the EU! Wow! Well, not true. Most people in this country are restrained by one thing – language.

We often hear people talk about a 'United States of Europe' as if the idea is for us to be like US citizens, capable of moving from state-to-state, should they so wish, and work and live somewhere else. Fine in the USA where everybody speaks the same language, but not in the EU, I would argue.

I'm a magazine editor, theoretically I don't need an office. I could work anywhere in the EU, but only if I was merely working remotely from the office in the UK. I couldn't move to Paris and work in, say, a McDonald's because I don't speak French and would come unstuck pretty quickly. So, yes, I could move around the EU, but I wouldn't be able to work in the EU. Conversely, most Europeans speak English so them coming here to the UK is a no-brainer – better money, better conditions and so on.

I'm wondering what to do on Thursday. I can't say I like the personalities involved on either side of the debate. I think David Cameron has let himself down in a big way and shown his true colours, that of somebody who simply cannot be trusted. If we vote out, I hope he goes. But equally, the lies on the Brexit side of the argument and the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage all make me think: do I really want to vote for something that they (Johnson and company) believe in? Equally, do I want to support something supported by Cameron and Osborne? Why should I trust the EU? Why should I support the EU when it's supported by people like Soros, Branson and so on? They are the rich elite, and they want me and my fellow citizens to accept lower wages so that they can make a bigger profit – that's why they want to remain in the EU. But then do I want to support the out campaign that is supported by right wing extremists? I'm tempted not to vote at all or simply go to the booth, pick up a pencil and then, holding it in my right hand, start to chant out loud: "Dip, dip, dog shit, you are not it."

Sunday, 19 June 2016

To the Tatsfield Churchyard...

While Saturday's weather was dull and overcast – and very depressing – Sunday was the complete opposite.

During the summer months I tend to wake up early as the sun pierces through the curtains and I find myself ready to rock around 0500hrs. This is both good and bad news. Good because if I get up around that time I have a long period 'downstairs' doing things like writing this blog, drinking tea and munching on toast; bad because sometimes it's good to get the extra hour's sleep.

In all honesty (as I'm writing this on Monday morning at 0654hrs, having eaten breakfast of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries with natural yoghurt, Shredded Wheat with hot milk and a mug of tea) I can't remember what I decided to do yesterday morning. In fact, I do remember. I woke up around 0600hrs, caught the news in a semi-conscious state and then the beginning of Something Understood (I've said it before and I'll say it again, they, Radio Four, should do another programme entitled Something Misunderstood). In other words, it was a 'normal' routine. I jumped out of bed around 0610hrs, made my way gingerly downstairs – don't forget we have no carpet on the stairs and there are exposed Gripperods – and made some tea, toast, Shredded Wheat and fruit, just like this morning in fact. Or similar.

Deer on Beddlestead Lane, Sunday morning...

On Saturday morning I had woken up to find two abort texts from Andy and Phil. Andy said he was knackered; Phil was off to buy wedding rings in London. I opted to ride over to mum's through Purley and Wallington, leaving at the normal time and later enjoying tea and fruit cake while chatting about the normal stuff we chat about. I also fixed two lamps (mum had put 3-amp fuses in the plugs when she needed 13-amp – not that I'm Mr Handy, it was just commonsense). I left around 1015hrs with a bottle of chilled London Pride.

So it was Sunday and I left the house roughly on time, pumped up my rear tyre – it wasn't flat, but I felt it could do with a bit more air – and headed up Ellenbridge, across Southcote and then up Elmfield Way before turning left on Morley and right on to Church Way.

I reached the green at just gone 0730hrs and Andy was waiting. We decided to head for the Churchyard. It was, after all, 'churchyard weather' (dry and sunny). As we reached the Warlingham 'mini roundabout', close to Knight's Garden Centre, I suggested we rode the 'slow way' so we did a quick circuit of the aforementioned roundabout and then rode towards the Bull and round to the right, riding kind of parallel to the 269 and avoiding the fast cars. The quieter 'slow way' is characterised by narrow country lanes hemmed in by hedges at this time of year. It means we can talk and worry less about traffic.

There is, of course, the punishing Beddlestead Lane, a slow and winding incline towards Clark's Lane that always seems to take ages and, invariably, is populated by Lycra Monkeys as it was today – not many Lycra Monkeys, but a few. To the right of the lane is a huge cornfield that shone in the sun. There was a lonely deer and its offspring making their way towards the road, although I doubt they would have crossed it. Not that it was busy. Andy dismounted and took the shot (above) accompanying this post and then we soldiered on, past the 'totem pole' – a dead tree – and the mobile phone mast and on to Clark's Lane where we turned left, rode past the Tatsfield Bus Stop (still in a state of disrepair) and on towards the churchyard where we sat on our bench, drank tea and munched on chocolate BelVita biscuits. The weather was perfect and we both admitted we could have sat there for much longer than we did, chatting, as we were, about photography and bikes and stuff. Andy would like to take it up photography professionally, but is only too aware how the advent of digital cameras has led most companies that used to need photographers to rely upon their own staff members 'taking a few shots'.

The ride back along Clark's Lane was pleasant enough and soon we reached the 269 and rode towards Warlingham where we parted company.

The sunny weather continued throughout the day and so did my hay fever. By the time Top Gear graced our television screen I was so blocked up I was forced to see if I could find some Olbas oil. I only tried the local Co-op and returned empty-handed and had to make do with a tissue. Horrible. And so was Top Gear, it's just not the same without Clarkson, May and Hammond. I feel as if they're all pretending to have fun rather than genuinely enjoying what they're doing. As for Eddie Jordan...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Something to do on June 24th...

I have an idea. After the vote on Thursday, if we all decide NOT to leave the European Union, I think it only right that those who supported the Remain vote should encourage that woman who looks like a pineapple – Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kid's Company – to travel with Alan Yentob, Sir Bob and Eddie Izzard to the UKIP stronghold of Ramsgate where they should be handed bass gazoos (if they exist) and then parade the seafront playing the theme tune to Desmond's.

Why I should have dreamt this up while riding to mum's yesterday morning I don't know, but now, having done so, I can't get the theme tune to Desmond's out of my head.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The continuing nightmare...

When the nightmare began, it arrived quietly. A text message while the phone was switched to 'silent'. It was probably there for half an hour or so before I noticed it. The message was simple: your flight to Stockholm with SAS has been cancelled.

Once I spotted and read the message, what had been a fairly relaxed, if mildly fraught weekend, was turned into a stressful, irritating one. I phoned my travel company to see what could be done and, as always, the end result wasn't favourable. I was told that to get there (to my destination) on time I'd have to pay £1,680 for a business class ticket. This was completely out of the question as the price quoted was almost double the original quote for the entire trip. Surely there must be something else?

Well, yes, there was, but it meant arriving Monday, not Sunday, at around 1630hrs. This was kind of fine, but not brilliant as it meant that I would miss Day One of the conference I was booked to attend. The alternative option was to abort the whole thing, and believe me I considered it. However, by taking the option of arriving on Monday afternoon, missing Day One's proceedings, I'd still get to be involved in the lion's share of the event, so I said 'fine, go ahead' – and within a few minutes I'd resigned myself to leaving the house around 5pm, getting to the airport around 6.30pm, having dinner at the airport (fish and chips in the Perfectionists' Café in Terminal Two at Heathrow, of which, more later) and then flying off towards the Arctic Circle city of Lulea (is it a city? I don't know).

So I reached the airport and went through the tedious process of security: taking the lap top out of the suitcase, placing a small container of shaving gel into a plastic bag, walking through the scanner and then re-packing the lap top and re-organising myself. Soon I was in the aforementioned Perfectionists' Café eating, arguably, the best fish and chips I've ever eaten. Fillet of cod, battered, with probably the best mushy peas ever and some excellent chips too.
So far, this has been the only good thing I've experienced

Then, more problems. The flight was due to leave at 2030hrs – sorry, by the way, for switching 'the normal clock' to the 24-hour clock in a matter of two paragraphs – but instead it was leaving half an hour later. And hey, I didn't mention that it wasn't going to Stockholm, did I? No, it was going to Copenhagen and I'd be spending the night in the First Hotel Mayfair in the centre of town. I'd then have to fly to Stockholm in the morning (Monday – today!) and then on to Lulea later in the afternoon, arriving at 1630hrs. Half an hour delay suited me fine, but it got worse. We all boarded the aircraft, me in seat 24A, armed with Noam Chomsky's Who Rules the World? Why not? It might be worth finding out, I thought. So I'm sitting there and I'm told, after listening to the same message in Swedish, which seemed to use far too many words to convey a simple message, that we'd be sitting on the tarmac for at least 45 minutes. It turned out to be more than an hour before we headed for the runway. I was getting very annoyed. You know what? I can understand air rage incidents.

So eventually off we go and the flight was fine. It took about an hour to reach Copenhagen, the flight was smooth and the paper cup of tea offered by the cabin crew was also fine after those fish and chips (and a couple of glasses of Cabernet – well, it was Sunday for heaven's sake. I should have been at home watching the cringeworthy Top Gear).

After a shortish cab ride from the airport I arrived at the First Hotel Mayfair only to discover that while I thought my travel company had reserved me a room, the guy on the front desk thought otherwise. By now I was tired. It was 0200hrs and I had to be up early and back at the airport to catch a flight to Stockholm. "How long is this going to take?" I asked him, almost falling asleep on two feet. "About fifteen minutes or so," he said, and I thought of those delays I'd already experienced back on the tarmac at Heathrow and, of course, the initial cancellation that had led to me standing here in the early hours, tired and in need of a good night's sleep.

He handed me a key card and directed me to my room on the second floor, room 2084 or 2042 I can't remember. Then, more hassles. Once I'd gained access to the room I discovered that I had to place the key card in a slot on the wall to get any power. This is commonplace,  but this one was difficult. I tried putting the card in one way and then the other, but no joy. It was 0200hrs and I was tired and irritable. I starting swearing under my breath and then eventually managed to get it working. I can't say I had a decent night's sleep.

I dreamt that, for some reason, I had foul-smelling breath and was upsetting a lot of very important people as a result. This must have developed because I didn't have any toothpaste and it must have played on my mind. It was one of those dreams when you wake up thinking it was real and then sigh with relief when you realise it wasn't.

So, I was lying fretfully in bed when I hear a noise. Like a small harp being played by a spider. It was my phone. I reached for it. "Cancellation: SK1420 Copenhagen to Stockholm." I couldn't believe it, although it meant I could lie there for a little longer, which I did. Then I got up and had breakfast: cereal, fresh fruit, scrambled egg, two mugs of tea and sat in a rather relaxed environment, from where I write this post. I'll need to call my travel company again and now I'm seriously weighing up whether it's worth pursuing this trip at all. Perhaps I'd be better off heading home and calling it a day. We'll see. If the new booking means losing another day I'm going to better off going home. More later.

More on Noam Chomsky later, but if you're in two minds about how to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, bear this in mind:-

 "In Europe, the decline of democracy is no less striking, as decision making on crucial issues is shifted to the Brussels bureaucracy and the financial powers that it largely represents. Their contempt for democracy was revealed in the savage reaction in July 2015 to the very idea that the people of Greece might have a voice in determining the fate of their society, shattered by the brutal austerity polices of the troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (specifically the IMF's political  actors, not its economists, who have been critical of the destructive policies). These austerity policies were imposed with the stated goal of reducing Greece's debt. Yet they have in fact increased the debt relative to GDP, while Greek social fabric has been torn to shreds, and Greece has served as a funnel to transmit bailouts to French and German banks that made risky loans."

For more on Christine Lagarde of the IMF, click here now.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

To Westerham...

Yesterday (Saturday) Andy, Phil and myself rode to Westerham. Phil might have to face the NoVisibleLycra disciplinary committee, it was decided, following his admission that he was wearing those 'clickety-click' cycling shoes worn by Lycra monkeys. You know what I'm talking about: those shoes that lock the wearer to the pedals and require him or her to remember to twist their foot in order to get off the bike. He was also riding a dropped handlebar, racing bike, although we'll let him off on that rule violation. All he needs now, though, is the tight fittting, 'sponsored' clothing and, well, we'll have to reconsider his membership if he goes that far – or at least request that he rides 200 yards ahead or behind us.

There were plenty of Lycra monkeys en route – the hot weather brings them out in droves – and as they whizzed past us, talking about pension plans and corporate strategy, we winced and patted our trusty tractor-like machines on the crossbar, safe in the knowledge that we were not wearing Lycra and probably never will. Let me take out that word 'probably', we'll never wear Lycra.

The weather was perfect. Not sunny, but warm. As we passed the Tatsfield Bus Stop, however, we noticed that somebody (or something) had smashed it up. The bench – our beloved bench – was broken and it looked as if the back wall had been taken out too. We assumed that something had crashed into our favourite covered, wooden bus stop, probably a car, but it's not a good sign. We resolved to visit Tatsfield Village the next time we needed shelter from the rain as there's another covered bus stop there.

Andy rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop Sunday and took this shot of the damage.
Once at Westerham we 'set up shop' at the wooden table on the green and drank tea. Andy brought out the Milk & Cereal Belvita biscuits and then Phil decided to buy himself and Andy a bacon roll from the Tudor Rose (I ordered a slice of fruit cake instead).

Library picture of Winston Churchill's statue at Westerham
The conversation revolved around the forthcoming European Union referendum and all the usual stuff you'd expect to hear people going on about. Soon it was time to head home. We had to deal with the awful hill going out of Westerham, but we're used to it, and soon we were at Warlingham Green bidding Andy farewell and then heading home to Sanderstead along the Limpsfield Road. We got there around 1015hrs.

There was a plan to ride out today, but I woke up in the dead of night and couldn't get back to sleep so I aborted, which was just as well as it was raining. Right now, at 1124hrs, it's stopped, but the forecast is for more.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop – Andy rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop on Sunday – today – (on his Lycra monkey bike!) and took this image of the damage done. He said it looks as if a car hit it. Well, there goes my 'sleeping rough at the bus stop fantasy'.

I'll be back in the saddle next week.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

No cycling, but plenty of decorating

I don't like decorating. Back in the mid-eighties I bought a large, 1926-built semi-detached house in South London that needed to be decorated from top to toe and I did the lot, having first attended classes at the Alan Sharratt School of Wallpapering. My best pal, Alan, is good at decorating. In fact, he's good at most things. When we were at school, he taught me how to fix my own bike; we used to build bikes and I was fairly good at it. Right now, though, I can't for the life of me remember how to take apart and then rebuild a bike. If something goes wrong with the Kona, it goes straight to the shop. Similarly, decorating. Alright, I can paint a wall (who can't?) but when I bought the aforementioned house it needed wallpapering. I called Al, he showed me how and off I went.

But that was a while ago and once I'd finished the house I kind of vowed never to embark upon such a project again. When I moved again the place I bought didn't need immediate decorating. In fact, I've been saying that for the past 15 years and, well, things have been neglected. Either that or we've paid builders and painters and roofers and floor layers and carpet fitters to do the work for us, although I keep looking at my front driveway thinking 'I could do it, I really could', but I couldn't and I won't so I make do with Roundup for the weeds and once a year you will find me sitting on the driveway in the sunshine removing dandelions and other unwanted plants.

The time comes, however, when I realise that I've got to roll my sleeves up and do some decorating. Our staircase was looking a right mess and the carpet running up the stairs was threadbare. We bought a new carpet at John Lewis recently and this weekend was earmarked for a spot of painting. Gloss on the woodwork, an intricate, time-consuming job, and now the house reeks of paint, there are exposed Gripperods to watch out for and, well, I'm glad it's over. It's taken me the whole weekend.

First I had to rip up the old carpet and the underlay. Then I had to take the carpet and the underlay to the local dump, along with an old duvet. When I returned I had to extract staples from the stairs and then sand the woodwork in preparation for the big job: painting. I went to bed last night with the daunting thought of painting in the morning. Both rides were aborted, which was a shame as the weather was wonderful. I took a trip the local DIY store to buy a few things (dust sheet, sanding block, light bulbs, wood varnish, white spirit) and then, having been to mum's en route for tea and cake, I returned to the house and got started.

Apart from a brief break at lunch time, I soldiered on until around 5pm when I retired to the garden with a cold beer and a bowl of amazing chilli con carne with rice and salad. Then I sat and watched a movie, Case 39 with that woman from Bridget Jones' Diary (Zellwegger). It was quite good and had me on the edge of the sofa once or twice. Right now I'm watchind Duran Duran live at the Eden Project – all in aid of BBC Music Day.

The smell of paint is everywhere. Paint and white spirit, but there's also a sense of achievement, which always feels good.