Being Reasonable

A cool Spring day with a noticeable easterly wind and just a sprinkling of a sun-shower out towards White Waltham – not a perfect cycling day but a long way from a bad one. If only my legs agreed.

Alongside most of the roads, there’s the inevitable litter thrown into the ditches and on the verges. It’s ‘just’ the normal depressing trail that humanity leaves, there’s nothing new about it. There’s also nothing reasonable about it.

Litter in a stream

Not in my vocabulary

With Codgertation, I ponder on and I try to be reasonable – the occasional rant aside. Looking at the ‘normal’ litter all around, and reading about the rising tide of rubbish on our beaches, today I found myself trying to be reasonable about being unreasonable.

Littering isn’t the product of a reasonable attitude – toward the environment or your fellow citizens. Wars aren’t reasonable, nor is any other violence for that matter. Corruption – in politics, in the police, anywhere – isn’t reasonable. Our all too prevalent ‘bonus culture’ and the complete myth that you have to pay top money to get top people is manifestly wrong, proven to be wrong, and thus utterly unreasonable. Cults, religions, fad diets, unchecked population growth, demonizing the poor and neglecting the elderly – none of it is reasonable.

The problem is obvious: an unreasonable and unreasoning mind isn’t going to respond positively to reason. That’s akin to two different languages spoken with no understanding on either side, and no interpreter.

Which leaves us with the question: what should a reasonable person do in the face of unreasonable behaviour? Learn a new language – actually be unreasonable? Try and act as an interpreter – understand the unreasonable with a view to explaining the reasonable?

Of course, I’m grappling with nothing new here. Plenty of finer minds than mine have thought long and hard about this and related/similar issues. We’re in ‘it takes a thief to catch a thief’ territory. We’re in ‘Just and Unjust Wars’ territory. But for all that it’s a commonplace topic, it does no harm to remind yourself that your own – supposedly/hopefully -rational, sensible world view is more-or-less incomprehensible babble to many others.

Invest? Pull The Other One

An artist’s impression of the future

An artist’s impression of the future

Another decent-length ride – 30+ miles largely in the territory between Henley and Windsor. It feels good to be riding properly again.

Nearer to Windsor, I ended up riding with a chap – as you do – who said he was out from west London. We chatted for a while – as you do; it turned out he was something I think quite senior in a commercial property company. He was on a very nice Pinarello, as in Campag Super Record equipped Pinarello. All sorts of people cycle.

Talk inevitably turned to pot-holes because there were so many we had to avoid, and that prompted my temporary companion to tell me that in the last few days he’d been ‘doing the whole buttering-up lark’ for some potential investors, what he called ‘high value low profile’ people, from India and China. I gathered that basically involved taking them on jollies and showing them the sights, Windsor, quaint old pubs and all that, as well as the more business-like stuff.

I’m not sure I’d be much good at that sort of work but it’s interesting to hear about it. What was particularly eye-opening, and depressing, and perhaps even chilling, was that he said –

  • after the touring around and what-have-you, the two people he’d been showing around from China had told him outright that they’d decided to not invest in Britain, not least because the infrastructure was so bad. In their view, so he said, if we cannot keep something as basic as our roads properly repaired, that says we are likely to be unable to do anything else well.
  • the person from India had said the same thing as the two from China about the roads, but had added to the equation that the amount of litter to be seen everywhere spoke volumes about how the British don’t even care for themselves and their own country; he thought with that attitude they were probably going to care even less about a foreign employer. And he said he was looking elsewhere instead too.

I said I can see their point of view and Mr Pinarello agreed. I said I didn’t know what anyone could do about it; he said in the Chinese view British politics was too corrupt and self-serving to be able to fix the problems, that he agreed with them and that he was planning to leave the country. He turned off and headed back towards London; I rode home, avoiding the pot-holes, passing fly-tipping and litter, wishing I knew where I could emigrate to.

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain …

Reasonable weather for a welcome change, after too many days with the temperature too close to zero and stints on the turbo-trainer the only sensible option.

And it was good to be out – a loop south of Reading then back across to Henley and over the top to Caversham.

If nature was a sentient being, it could be tempting to thing that nature’s getting her own back at the moment. After all the floods of late, most road-side ditches are full to the brim or have been recently, meaning all the dumped rubbish and litter has come to the surface. Nature’s revenge – as all our filth is regurgitated back at us.

Today I was riding in the Royal County of Berkshire and South Oxon. This whole region is a visitor destination. It’s a litter-strewn, pothole-riddled mess.

Dear politicians – this is the impression visitors are getting of Britain. Invest here – in a country, in a society, that’s all too happy to foul its own nest? It’s not a good omen …

A flooded ditch and field near you

And nature said, ‘Look at your filth’. And the businessman said, ‘Invest here? Not on your life’.

Of course, nature isn’t a sentient being. If only. Perhaps I’ve just been listening to too many old Bowie records lately.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

A reasonable length road ride heading south of Reading for the first time in ages, including going through a once-again-open-to-traffic Sonning.

All I could see was the same old same old: pot-holes that had been filled (badly) are now large and dangerous holes again. Pot-holes that weren’t quite big enough to merit mending according to whatever criteria they apply are now major hazards which will cost far more to repair. Litter is everywhere and all too visible now there’s no vegetation around, so that just – it seems – encourages everyone to throw more litter. At some point it’ll be cleared up – at far greater cost than tackling it early. Etc.

All you seem to read about in the news is the same old same old too – climate change manifestations; the US and Israel; India and Pakistan and disputed territory; corrupt policemen; corrupt politicians; Japan and China and disputed territory; government policies that will hit the poorest hardest, and so on and so on. One that particularly struck me today was a UN report that the wealth gap in Britain is the worst in the West.

That whole ‘trickle down’ approach was discredited in the Thatcher/Reagan years but it won’t go away. It beggars belief. It’s not a Tory product; it’s a product of our political classes – Tories, Labour, Lib-Dem and anyone else who’s ever had a say.

It beggars belief, too, that we just take it in the same way as we take the rest of it. We are mugs, moaning to ourselves and our mates and that’s about it; at most perhaps contriving some ‘gallows humour’ out of it. Satire might change things; gallows humour just ameliorates.

I’m as much of a mug as anyone else. I know all too well that I’ve droned on about most of this stuff before and done precisely nothing to change any of it. The question is how to make 2013 any different in any way, however small.

Time For Anger?

A short ride – again largely determined by which roads are flooded and which are going to be deep in debris; the normal legacy of flooding. At least it was on the road and on a road bike this time.

The rain’s ceased and it’s unseasonally mild. There were squirrels out foraging, hedgerow birds aplenty and two sightings of birds of prey – a Sparrow Hawk and, probably, a Kestrel.

And there was an endless amount of litter on the verges. This country is filthy. From the casually discarded stuff – mainly drink and food related – to the obviously deliberately tipped – typically ‘small builder detritus’ – I have nothing new to say about it. It’s depressing to see and depressing to think you’re sharing the world with so many grotty people.

I’ve seen any number of pundits over the past few days looking back at 2012 and going on about how great Britain still can be, referring to the Olympics in particular, but in truth that was just a red-herring. It was a freak-show diversion.

Any ‘feel good’ talk is wholly and utterly inappropriate when we’re living in a society where, at the most simple, basic level, so many of its citizens feel so disinterested and disengaged they’re willing to foul it up. Leave everything else aside. It is uncomplicated in the extreme: if you’re shitting in your own nest then there has to be something very, very wrong.

Coincidentally, this time last year I was writing about the possible merits of being angry. It’s a new year again. Perhaps anger is sensible; perhaps it is time to try and take a different, more active attitude.

Nature Notes From On High

Up on the Ridgeway for a ride with Charli – it seems like a long time has drifted by since our last ride up there. The difference is marked.

Of course, rain falls everywhere and it’s been very wet of late, but somehow you expect it to be dryer up high. It wasn’t, and the combination of chalk, flint and clay can make for more sideways travel than is ideal, but it wasn’t that bad; neither of us fell off.

The wind was strong and cold; all in all it would be easy to call it unwelcoming and, certainly, there were even fewer people around than normal, but it was by no means a hostile day. As always, making the effort has its rewards.

Cycling in the cold, with Didcot A and B power stations working hard as a backdrop.

Cycling in the cold, with Didcot A and B power stations working hard as a backdrop.

The change in the wildlife is marked. In addition to the ‘normal’ hedgerow birds you’d expect to see there were flocks of Starlings and Red Wings, plenty of Crows and any number of Rooks – in the main rooting about on the ploughed fields. There were more of both Buzzards and Red Kites than I’d noticed before too, and a few Kestrels around to complete the compliment of hunters. It’s been a good year for Pheasants; they’re everywhere – including up where we were.

Depressingly, humanity doesn’t change. A fair way away from anywhere, someone had gone to a stupid amount of trouble to dump a fridge. Pretty well where ever they’d come from, it would have been just as easy or easier to take it to a council tip. It is possible to despair when you think about who you have to share the planet with. People like this can drive cars, vote, breed …

A dumped fridge on the Ridgeway

We share the planet with the idiots who do this.