Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cycling

Last week's blog post was entitled  "walking" so "cycling" seems an apt follow-through for this week.

At the commencement of the pandemic lock-down in England cycle shops were one of the few retailers permitted to remain open. My ancient Raleigh bicycle which had been used for frequent rides to Richmond Park, then to circulate its hilly terrain and to return home via sometimes muddy and always hilly Common, Beverley Brook and Wimbledon Village,  urgently required servicing. Upon taking the bike to the popular but small bike shop in Raynes Park they quoted about £75 for the full service.

The quote seemed reasonable but upon looking around the shop whilst the quote was being prepared I wondered about acquiring a new bike instead of  servicing the old one. After a little haggling about the cost of the new bike, the sale price for the old and transferring lights and carrier from the old to new bike a deal was done. Possibly new bicycles will become more expensive after the pandemic is over not least if there any issues with China though many bikes come I believe from Taiwan rather than China; perhaps the UK should begin to manufacture more as we used to do when  I purchased the old Raleigh.

Apart from cycling  home from Raynes Park, I had not until Thursday this week, really tried a decent cycle ride on the new bike. Furthermore, with Richmond Park closed to cyclists for the time being, there was a question of how to secure a longish decent but overall enjoyable ride. 

Wimbledon Common  like Richmond Park, is also closed to motorists but unlike Richmond Park is still open to cyclists. Walking on the Common is always  enjoyable  but in my view, the limited cycle routes over Wimbledon Common though good for small children with their parents are not ideal for OAP cyclists such as yours truly.

Eventually, I decided on a route through to Kingston-Upon-Thames, thence along the River Thames to Hampton Court Palace, following which if the route proved enjoyable, I would return the same way.

In the event, the chosen route for trying the new bike, was excellent. Kingston town centre was almost empty given the Covid-19 shop closures. Kingston's local council Lib/Dem I believe, was working hard to provide new cycle routes everywhere so riding through the town was a cinch. There was then a two way cycle path over Kingston Bridge and an easy track down to the  Thameside path leading to Hampton Court and beyond.

The Thames path was  broad and even the stony parts proved no difficulty for the new bike. 

Perhaps  because of the Covid-19 and huge reductions in diesel and petrol driven traffic everywhere, the sky was beautifully blue and clear, the Thames was flowing  serenely and the only interruption was a brief telephone call on my mobile, which mrs maytrees had asked me to bring in case of incidents or accidents, of which there were none.

As for the bike; understandably a big improvement on my thirty year plus, old Raleigh and the  modern gear change arrangement made hill climbing rather less difficult than used to be the case. The main drawback however was that the old Raleigh bike saddle had springs whereas in common with many C21  bikes, the new cycle did not.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Walking

Mrs maytrees and yours truly decided to take a long walk on the lock-down being slightly eased in England on Wednesday.

For health reasons affecting mrs maytrees, we decided to avoid all hill walking so ventured towards the flat of maytrees min some forty five minutes distant. The expectation was that upon arriving there maytrees min could leave us some tea and home made banana bread on the wall outside her flat, which we could consume while still remaining the designated 6'6" away from her.

Alas, upon arrival outside her flat maytrees min who thankfully still has full time employment, was working on a Zoom conference call from her home, so no tea and banana bread to be found even for ready money.

We  then decided to walk back via a nearby park next to which we knew that there was a decent cafe which we thought would serve tea. Cups of tea and perhaps some cake, we  expected to be able take to the adjacent park. Sadly that cafe was closed as indeed was a new looking chocolatiere which was being fitted out next door. We looked in through the window of the latter which previously had been a rather derelict looking former shop, but again no drinks even to be taken out to the park.

Upon  our walking on however, a young man came out of the chocolatiere. He said that he had decided  at the end of 2019 to buy the premises and convert them to a new chocolatiere. The purchase was he said, was completed early in January 2020 when he started to fit the premises out for what he believed would be a number of new local customers. Unfortunately the Covid-19 lock down in England has  thwarted his plans so far at least. He remarked though that he would be opening next week for drinks which could be taken into the park next door and that he was still intent on opening fully once the pandemic permitted.

We told him that maytrees min lived nearby and that when he opened, we would take her out there to have a high tea. (or should that be "chocolate"?) together.

Going on our way, mrs maytrees decided that two hours walking without even a cup of tea was enough so she  then took the short route home. Having found the walking  refreshing I continued to Wimbledon Common for a further hour's walk and then also came home  but still craving that cup of tea.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Lock Down Time

The covid -19 lock down has provided much time for interests, hobbies and other matters that were if not forgotten before the Chinese 'flu pandemic at least put on hold for a lengthy time.

In my own case the publication of:

The Wandering Soul

on March 26th 2020 seems well timed . However Amazon Waterstones and the like are only selling e-versions at present though thankfully, the publishers themselves have provided a sale site for me. Clicking on the title above will  redirect to that site, for any who may be interested.

Preparing for my Employment Tribunal case, which in June 2019, led to the writing of the autobiography in question, is also facilitated by the lock down and has the advantage of providing a complete personal distraction from the needs, as set out by HM Government to:

Stay at Home; Protect the NHS and Save Lives

My own view though remains that there should have been no compulsory lock down and that as in the case of Hong Kong 'flu in the 1960s, business should not have been closed and vast amounts of tax payers' money spent on paying people's wages which otherwise would have been met by employers.

Hopefully though after the Prime Minister speaks tomorrow night, the way ahead will be clearer. Meanwhile the skies, the roads and most importantly the atmosphere, are clearer quieter and far more pleasant than they have been for many years.


Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Wandering Soul

Despite the pandemic, the UK lock down and decisions by Amazon, Waterstones and others, to concentrate on  selling items other than new books at present, it was excellent to learn that my own just published autobiography, could now be purchased by all comers  see:

The Wandering Soul







Many thanks to Chris Tailby  from my old Beaumont College year, who I believe was the first purchaser.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Large Nations or Small in C21?

One of the dreadful  effects of WWII whilst the war  and its killings were still in train,  was  in effect, the creation of superstates  which  really replaced the individual countries that had been conquered,  in Europe by  the Russians or Germans and in the Far East by the Japanese.

After WWII  some of these superstates  began to crumble back into individual smaller countries. The breaking down of the Berlin Wall by students and others working together in 1989 led to East and West Germany reuniting to become Germany once again. A couple of years later the USSR itself essentially crumbled back to some individual states including of course Russia itself. The British Empire thankfully faded may years ago as indeed did the empires of other European countries.

Reflecting on the changes at this time of the world Covid-19 pandemic it is true to say that there is no absolute best way forward for nation states or superstates. However it is my personal view that the time has come for many superstates to be become smaller self governing individual countries.

The recent statements by the EU Brexit negotiator reported on Sky news  in essence as blasting the UK for not moving on one or other of the points he, Monsieur Barnier was raising, tends to illustrate the view expressed in the preceding paragraph above. Many individual countries in Europe are led by presidents or parliaments or similar, who often appear to have far more civilised and sensible methods of governing and/or negotiating. Usually such negotiations proceed fairly quietly with give and take on both sides being applied.

However moving away from the  EU and looking at China, one sees so suspicious are the Chinese statistics about Covid-19 in that country, which is really now an empire, that the BBC has ceased to use them as a comparison at all. The Chinese attitude to the Uighur muslims living within its empire, illustrates the point well with the Chinese  empire's leader essentially placing many into camps to re-educate them to be more Chinese. The Chinese empire has  also extended to other states such as parts of Burma and they are in dispute with several other nations about their attempts to take over islands in international waters.

The USA itself is perhaps another example. Individual states ruled by their own governors are taking individual decisions  about ending or not their Covid-19 restrictions some of which appear to be incensing President Trump of the USA.

The USA which is also really an empire, has by its large size and power assisted in protecting the free world during for example the Cuban missile crisis with the USSR in 1962.

However as indicated above, since 1962 the USSR has divided into several different countries. Given the issues with  the Chinese empire, maybe  an American counterbalancing one is still required for the time being. Nonetheless if the USA empire  had already  largely eased with many individual states becoming self governing countries, would all the dreadful wars in the Middle East which included the USA, have taken place? One could argue given the continuing Russian involvement, that  they might, yet the point is never really debated.

Reverting to the EU - the UK  is out, which distresses  Monsieur Barnier. Will the  EU survive let alone thrive in the years ahead; will the empires of Red China and the USA also survive  and what about the Russians?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Positives

Not easy to feel positive in these times and less so to be positive in the written word but still worth a try:

Having been requested by mrs maytrees to replenish her Sainsbury's  raspberry jam I was intrigued by the display of Pimm's  "strawberry tangerine and mint preserve." The preserve is non-alcoholic so I decided to buy a jar.


Pimm's Strawberry Tangerine & Mint Preserve

I have not yet tried this 'preserve' but looking at  another supermarket's website it appears to have reviews ranging from 1 to 5 stars (out of a possible 5) which makes one little wiser. Nonetheless the price £2.50 is about the same as jars of jam from France so possibly a good  competitive offering by Pimms and supermarkets.

For some reason any positive actions taken by HM Government at this time, are usually announced on inside pages of newspapers and even then towards the bottom right hand corner of a page, For example,  the government actions taken  to encourage savers include their recently cancelling the previously proposed reductions in the interest rates offered to savers by its NS&I bank.   At the same time  the minister responsible has also decided that the Premium Bond  prizes run by that bank, should continue to be paid at the current rate, rather than being reduced from May, to mirror the recently announced savings'  interest rates reductions.

Because of the  lock down caused by Covid 19 there are rather more communications by face time and other means with members of the family who reside abroad. for example  with matrees max who lives and works in Jersey and with maytrees mi  who lives  and  works in New  Zealand, than there might have been had times been more  normal.

Then there is far less aircraft noise than there was until  recently. Indeed Heathrow is reducing its runway use to a single runway and hopefully this means that the Heathrow expansion plans which have been much criticised will not now take place. Air pollution has fallen substantially as has road traffic. 

One is able whilst taking the permitted walks, to enjoy sight and sound of far more wild life than was the case until recently.

Strangers walking by tend both to distance themselves on the one hand but to express greetings on the  other.

Good tends to emerge from all of life's circumstances though that is not to under state the burdens.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Wimbledon Common; Covid -19 Pandemic

Quite understandably the Covid-19 pandemic represents nearly all the news around the world at present.

There is little more that can sensibly be written at least by me,  so the  blog  photos below of  my Wimbledon Common  permitted walk during the lock-down seem apt:








Interesting to compare the photo of the Papal Delegation or is it Papal embassy these days, on the left, with that taken ten years ago  at  almost the same point during the  visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI - see: Papal Visit to England 2010
The request to take one's permitted walk in an area close to home coupled with the closure of the car parks on Wimbledon Common and the preventing of car parking at  near by  street parking bays, has led to the Common becoming rather quieter than usual  with far fewer people. There are also very few planes flying overhead and much reduced traffic on Parkside at which the Papal Embassy is situate.


And so to the walk's end.


The route taken was the same as the running route when preparing for the London Marathon (that due to be held next week has sadly been cancelled). Running the route twice round took the same time, one hour approximately, as walking the route once.

Cycling

Last week's blog post was entitled  "walking" so "cycling" seems an apt follow-through for this week. At the comme...