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Thursday, 30 April 2015
A mystery,  puzzle or enigma?


Or is this something more banal? In any case this sticker in East London leads me to Draft Magazine, allegedly a literary magazine. 

Posted by bigblue on 30/04/2015 at 09:14 PM
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Saturday, 25 April 2015
The Caterham Election Hustings


So last night I accompanied some family members to the General Election hustings organised by Churches Together in Caterham, and which was held in the actual United Reform Church building (rather than a hall). I won’t give a full report because the hustings pretty much covered the same format and ground as in Oxted. 

Again we seemed to have more people concerned about equality, social justice and poverty (compared to five years ago) and I appreciated candidates being asked tricky questions by people whose support they are seeking. There were two or three questions directly or partly related to the use of charity food banks in Caterham. There was also concern voiced at the weakening of our public services: police, nurses and other public servants who were once held in high esteem and valued by our community and government. There was also a question about the human tragedy in Libya and North Africa with hundreds of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Ocean this week. Here the emphasis of the candidates are different, ranging from: we must act to stop Britain from being a soft touch for migrants and we must look after our “own” first, we should be prepared to take in some of the Christian migrants, we should act strongly against the people traffickers, we should address the causes of the conflict/deprivation in the countries that migrants are fleeing from, and (touchingly) from the Green Party candidate: “I see the migrants as my own”. These positions are all my own paraphrasing, and the candidates sometimes expressed more than one of these “positions” so I am avoiding ascribing them to individuals. 

There were a few questions that I found strange: most notably the one which expressed a concern about churches being “forced to conduct gay marriages”. Is that really an issue? I do know that some churches are prevented from doing so (by the government even, rather than their own powers-that-be) but am not aware of the reverse being the case.

The chair (a teacher at Caterham school) announced that this was the last hustings in the constituency. He had a habit of combining questions, which had to be pre-submitted, into composite questions. I decided that I didn’t appreciate that: the candidates had 90 seconds to answer and I would have preferred fewer good questions that the candidates were able to do justice to. I also understand that asking for questions in advance is useful for the chair to get a flavour of the topics people want to address (and for him/her to ensure these are fairly addressed) but I don’t see why the chair should restrict discussion to the canned topics. To be fair the chair did allow some questioners to respond to the candidates at the end but this was exceptional. It also worked well for those topics, so I am not negating that but asking for more.

Posted by bigblue on 25/04/2015 at 03:00 PM
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RX02ZVC - Godstone driver cuts up cyclist at junction

This driver managed to shave precious seconds out of her important journey.

Posted by bigblue on 25/04/2015 at 08:38 AM
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Saturday, 18 April 2015
DN56EVM - Another Lingfield Idiot

Perhaps he expected the cylist to share the road?  Well firstly, I was avoiding the pothole and cracked road zone on the left of the road.  I was also taking an assertive position because I had suffered a number of close passes and I needed to make it clear to cars behind me that there was not enough room in my carriageway for them and me.  Thirdly, if he wanted to “share” why didn’t this driver slow down?  This is two rides in a row that I have gone via Lingfield and this is the second such incident. Lovely Lingfield they say…Well the driving is far from lovely.

Posted by bigblue on 18/04/2015 at 10:23 PM
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Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Oxted election hustings


This evening I attended the General Election hustings in Oxted for the constituency of East Surrey, and once again reminded myself of how we tend to boast about our democratic state and yet ignore the reality of how tenuous and fragile our democracy actually is:

Westminster is sometimes called the mother of all Parliaments, presumably because it was exported (with colonialism) to various other countries. However, as any geek knows it is not the oldest parliament in the world and the United Kingdom is not the oldest democracy.  In the lifetime of my own grandparents: the franchise was extended to all men over 21 (in 1918), the franchise was extended to all women over 21 (in 1928), wealthy people were restricted to only one vote (in 1948), and the vote was extended to all aged 18 and over (in 1969). Only a few years ago (in 2006) it became legal for an 18 year old to stand as a member of parliament. Today we still have an unelected House of Lords and a Monarchy with unelected powers.

(As I stated five years ago).

The hustings was held in the Oxted School Hall and the following candidates spoke: Sam Gyimah (Conservative); David Lee (Liberal Democrats); Sandy Pratt (Independent); Matt Wilson (Labour); Helena Windsor (UK Independence Party) and Nicola Dodgson (Green Party).  Two things struck me as I looked at the line-up: Last time Sandy was an Independent Conservative; I wonder why he dropped the Conservative label. And Labour has chosen another candidate called Matt. The previous candidate (Matt Rhonda) is standing this year in Reading East (where he stands a better chance of selection). So my neighbour’s observation half a decade ago was apt, when he suggested to me that Rhonda was ambitious and would surely use a (failed) East Surrey candidature as a platform to stand somewhere else in a more electable seat.

There is so much to write up about the hustings, that I will just limit myself to a few points on each candidate, giving my general impressions:

As with last year, the session ended with a complaint about questions having to be submitted via email prior to the event. An elderly man pointed out that he is not on the internet.  He then went on a ramble about the sanctity of life (from conception to eventual death) and asked for each candidates view of abortion and the sanctity of life.  Andrew was at that point drawing the meeting to a close, and instead asked the candidates to each provide one word to sum up their approach to life in general. The elderly man was then frustrated, because he (obviously) didn’t get the answer that he wanted.

The first open question from the floor at the end of the prepared questions was from a man who stated that he wasn’t going to vote, but asking the candidates what they intended to do to address the issue of voter apathy. It was interesting to see after the hustings that the young man had decided to vote after all:

If the hustings experience motivated one young voter to vote, that can only be a good thing.

My final observation concerns the different tone of the hustings to last time. Perhaps it was because the candidates were now standing against an incumbent (Sam was a new candidate last time also). Perhaps it was because the candidates were all standing against the record of the coalition government (except Sam, and partly David). Perhaps it was because there was a stronger voice on the left this time with Nicola and Matt posing alternatives to the comfy right-wing thinking in this constituency. And of course there was the refreshing organisation and chairing (which I have already mentioned).

The photograph above was taken at the end of the hustings and shows Sam and his Sure Start critics discussing the issues after the event. The discussion was still quite heated, and I don’t know what they resolved.

Posted by bigblue on 15/04/2015 at 10:23 PM
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X147BAA - Lovely Lingfield (not)

I had cycled over 90 kilometres, and was on my way home. This driver kept coming at me on my side of the road, and showed no signs of slowing down. So I stopped and put my foot down. He was annoyed with me, and gave me lip. I told him to put his drink down and he drove off. A charming fellow.

Posted by bigblue on 15/04/2015 at 07:54 AM
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Tuesday, 14 April 2015
The view from Aberaeron


Looking up towards New Quay, which is on the distant bluff.

Posted by bigblue on 14/04/2015 at 11:22 PM
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Friday, 10 April 2015
Hwyl fawr Cei Newydd


It was a lovely Spring break. We stayed in  delightful villa in a hamlet about 10 miles from New Quay. The weather was very pleasant and I enjoyed cycling the hills. My impression is that Welsh drivers are more considerate and careful than those of Surrey (but the traffic volume is lower and there may be other factors such as the long holiday weekend). On the way home I stopped for a few hours in Abergavenny in the Brecon Beacons national park. 

Posted by bigblue on 10/04/2015 at 10:52 PM
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