Sack The Ignorant

Much of England is hot – in the 80s F. It has been for a while now and it will be for a few days more at least. This is not bad news. It makes life a bit difficult in some regards – this being England, we’re not at all geared-up for any kind of weather other than the middling-temperate variety. But it would be churlish to complain

The hot nights means open windows, and open windows means the sound of jets landing at Heathrow. Right now they’re not coming in overhead but in a few days the wind will be veering east, and that means they’ll be waking me and thousands of other people up, from about 5.30 or 6.00 onwards.

Today saw Heathrow submit its plans for expansion to the enquiry that’s looking in to Britain’s air traffic capacity. There’s lip-service concern about noise but the notion that there can be an additional 260,000 flights per year without it ruining an awful lot of lives is laughable. Worse, it’s an insult to suggest it.

The BBC on airport expansion plans

It strikes me that we ought to be looking at what percentage of air travel is business related. We then need to sack pretty well all the business people taking those flights as they’re patently too ignorant to use online conferencing tools and are running up costs to their companies (and the country) for no good reason. By definition, this makes them bad business people. Once sacked, then we could assess what kind of air traffic capacity we actually need. It would, surely, be a very much lower requirement. And think how happy that would make so many people on the ground.

If only/fat chance.

In the meantime, it’s perhaps counter-intuitive, but I’ve always found cycling on hot days a good thing to do. You’re guaranteed some air passing over you, and if you’re working up a sweat that’s only going to cool you down. It’s better than just sitting and panting by a long chalk. If you don’t know what to do with yourself on a hot day then – assuming you’re physically OK – I recommend it.

From near Christmas Common, getting a breeze up on high looking over a sun-backed Oxfordshire.

From near Christmas Common, getting a breeze up on high looking over a sun-baked Oxfordshire.

Sweating and Moaning

A moan: there are times when the English summer weather is perfectly foul. It rained last night, just a little. Today was warm but not hot. It was humid. It was grey. The clouds were ominous but you could tell they weren’t going to do anything apart from make it feel oppressive. You could cycle, you could walk, you could do both; whatever you did, it was sweaty. Not in the good ‘you know you’re working hard’ way, but in the sticky, uncomfortable way.

And there’s nothing you can do about it, and there’s no point moaning. So, why moan? I was with Charli today and we both complained about it, totally without point. All we were doing was making the obvious explicit. There are times when I despair of the kind of basic, nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day stupidity I’m capable of. It didn’t stop us doing anything. Get on with it and get over it; make the most of it.

And now I’m moaning about moaning. Argh.

An oppressive sky seen from Lardon Chase, Oxon.

A view from Lardon Chase

No Insults

Riding today and it was a bad case of failing to dodge the ‘showers’ – if prolonged periods of heavy rain driven along by strong winds can be called showers. I have more weather forecasting web sites bookmarked than is good for my sanity, but none of them are reliable when it comes to weather like this.

Summer rain on summer leaves.

Summer rain on summer leaves.

So, a short-ish ride by the end of which I was soaked – so it goes. And as I battled into a rain laden headwind, I thought to myself, well, at least no-one can call me a fair weather cyclist.

That in turn made me think, yes, being called a ‘fair weather’ cyclist is a common enough insult – but it’s gibberish really. A moment’s reflection will show that the keen are fools to dish that insult out. The keen should welcome cyclists of all standards and all levels of ability and dedication. It’s a numbers game: it will only be when there are enough of us that we’ll stop being thought of us ‘cyclists’ (or ‘bloody cyclists’) and will instead become who we actually are: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sister, wives, husbands, lovers and friends – just like everyone else.

And besides, there’s no shame in only cycling on a decent day if you’ve the choice.

Cycling In Cornwall

Looe, lost in thick cloud

Yes, the top of the road is lost in sopping cloud

A few summer days in south east Cornwall. We can offer you ludicrously steep roads – no fun up or down. We can offer you scarily narrow lanes – barely one vehicle wide and no room at all if you meet anything coming around a blind bend, of which there are plenty. We can also offer you lethal main roads – wider than country lanes but not wide enough for a car to overtake a bike without going across the white line: recipes for disaster if there’s anything oncoming and the one behind’s going too fast to slow down enough. And the chances are that whatever happens you’ll have nowhere to bail out to, as most roads, minor or major, are lined with high hedges with stone cores.

And we can offer you rain – that uniquely soaking south west variety.

Photo: “Yes, the top of the road is lost in sopping cloud”

Soundscapes

I don’t have the skills or the equipment to record the sound of a (late) summer rain shower blowing through a beech wood in full leaf on a blustery day, so you’ll just have to take my word for it – it’s unique and, curiously, both exciting and relaxing.

It’s obvious, but being able to appreciate a sound-event like that requires a degree of quiet that’s not always easy to find. It’s certainly denied to anyone in a motor vehicle. Soundscapes are important and very undervalued; almost unnoticed; definitely rarely remarked upon. It’s surely quite stupid to overlook such a huge part of life from how we assess life’s quality.

Nothing’s Wrong, Except Everything

I was cycling ‘up on the downs’ (a phrase that I’ll never tire of) today, with Charli. It was a lovely day – a warm clear day in England in September does tend to be far better than a mid-summer day; it can be hot but somehow fresher.

The path down from up on the downs

The path down from up on the downs

As you’d expect for the area (near Wantage), it’s all very ‘nice’. The average car’s on the new side; the typical house is a long way from cheap. There are plenty of horses in the fields and let’s face it, they’re purely luxuries. There was nothing ‘wrong’ with anything we saw at all – nothing, except everything.

Save The Children is having to start operations in the UK. I do not know how that can not be a screaming headline in every form of media. No, poverty’s not a simple problem to tackle. Yes, surely, there are problems to address in how society might and does try and tackle poverty.

But all that should, surely, pale into insignificance against the bald fact that Save the Children is starting work in the UK. That headline should be screamed until it is no longer true – until the problem is effectively tackled.

That anyone with any influence at all over the levers of power, the levers that could be being used to address the ludicrous, gross inequality of wealth distribution, can be failing to respond to that bald fact says pretty well everything you need to know about those with their hands on those levers.

As much as I’m a happy little cyclist mooching around the comfortable rural idylls of middle England, we need different people to operate the levers.