Always nice to get a positive review for one of my books and even better when it comes from another 'ex-pat' Burtonian! Carol post...
Friday, 13 May 2016
If you recall, we've been on holiday and, in the time-honoured tradition of holiday-makers everywhere, I thought I would bore you all witless with it!
We were going on a cruise around New Zealand but we had a brief stopover in Sydney, Australia before we departed and I was determined to get as much out of that short time as possible. We had visited Darling Harbour (after a marathon walk from the CBD) and had discovered the brilliant ferries that potter out from Circular Quay to all points. We had given the Royal Agricultural Show a miss, despite the earnest entreaties of one of our Australian acquaintances, and had enjoyed some time around Manly Beach instead.
On the last full day of our sojourn, I really wanted to tick a few more things off from my 'To Do' list for Australia. High on this list was getting a chance to see the Fruit Bats in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I had seen these on a number of British television shows and I really wanted the chance to see them in real life. Therefore, clutching my, by now rather tattered, street map of Sydney, we set off from Circular Quay railway station with the aim of finding the Royal Botanical Gardens.
I'm not really much of a gardener. By and large, I cut lawns and hack off branches as and when necessary, and that's about it. Therefore, the only element of real interest to me, in the Royal Botanical Gardens, was the Fruit Bats. That is not to detract from the wonder that is the RBG, it is a wonderful oasis of peace, tranquillity and greenery in the heart of a busy, modern city, but I wanted to see the Fruit Bats. I'm nothing if not focused ;-)
Therefore, I was more than a bit put out when I spotted a sign which said that the entire colony had been moved in 2012 because they were ruining the trees! From my point of view, I wouldn't have cared less if they had taken a chain saw to them (the trees that is, not the Fruit Bats). Apparently, they have been split between various other colonies widely spread across the country, none of which were anywhere near us.
I, of course, did what any reasonable person would do, under the circumstances. I sulked.
Eventually, and after a good deal of "I don't believe it"ing and huffing and puffing, I decided to console myself with a cup of tea at the cafeteria. We managed to secure a table outside, even though it was very busy, and I trotted off to buy the teas. A young couple, complete with very tiny baby, and their friend visiting from England, were on the next table and came in at the same time to order an appetising range of food. I was quite envious, but we had had a pretty decent breakfast and we knew that the cruise would hardly be a weight-watchers' paradise, so we decided to do the sensible thing and wait until lunchtime.
Sitting outside, enjoying our tea and the sunshine, I was surprised to see some rather large birds plodding around the tables. This was one:
Apparently, it goes by the name of the Australian White Ibis. If you want to know more about it, I strongly urge you to read this article (Australian White Ibis), I wish I had beforehand! I was rather surprised to see something so apparently tropical in such a mundane setting.
The group on our next-door table were busily cooing over the new arrival. Mother seemed to have decided that she had more than fulfilled her duty by bringing the little tyke into the world, so Father seemed to be marked down for the bulk of the childcare duties. Accordingly, as it was apparent that the youngster needed a nappy change, Father was despatched to the facilities to put that in motion (as it were). At the same time, the friend from England was sent off to the serving area to find out where the food was. It was somewhat unfortunate, therefore, that only the Mother was left at the table when the food arrived. I have to say, it looked really something. There were fries and salads and falafel burgers, and all in very generous portions. Unfortunately, two of the Ibis decided to take this opportunity to, basically, mug her. They launched themselves at the table and what they didn't carry off wholesale, they stood in. Father's falafel burger was an early casualty of the raid and I could imagine how chuffed he would be on his return. The friend was aghast when she came back. No amount of frenzied flapping of arms disturbed the Ibis in their work and no-one seemed to want to get too close to them (they're rather big birds). The last we heard, as we made our excuses and left, was the Mother urging her friend to go back and claim a refund on the grounds that the birds had eaten their food. I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that.
In a way, I guess I did see my Flying Foxes. The Ibis are certainly as adept as any fox at pilfering food, and they can certainly fly. I would have loved to have seen the Father's face when he came back from a lengthy bout of mucky nappy changing. I'll bet the Paternity Leave doesn't last much longer :-)
If you enjoyed this account, you might want to read the others in the series:
Wizard in Oz
Time Flies (But Not In Economy)
Giving The Rahlag A Miss
Monday, 2 May 2016
They've let me have a go at the Editor's column again this month in the Derby Telegraph! (I could have put that better, but you know what I mean)
It doesn't look as if this will ever be posted on the DT website, so here's the content for those who can't read it on the photo above:
I'm a NIMBY!
There, I've said it. For those who don't know this particular acronym, it stands for Not In My Back Yard and refers to those who object to any development in their neighbourhood.
Governments, both national and local, tend to refer to NIMBYs rather sneeringly, on the grounds that, if we had our way, there would be no development at all and, therefore, no new housing stock and industry in which our young people can live and work. I entirely accept this argument but it doesn't change my position one iota.
You see, in my opinion, to be a NIMBY is a perfectly economically rational position to hold. Why should we be expected to welcome any development which brings considerable short and medium term negative consequences, such as; loss of landscape or natural amenities, increased traffic, the noise and atmospheric pollution of building work, when the development typically confers little or no positive outcomes for those who already live in the area?
'Ah yes,' our political leaders would no doubt say, 'but that it is a selfish attitude. We need to think of the greater good of society.' Well, I would quite like to see what the reaction of Messrs. Cameron, Corbyn or Farron would be if you proposed to knock up a few starter homes on their respective back lawns. I doubt they would be quite so sanguine about it.
I'm particularly exercised about this at the moment for two reasons. Firstly, because our village is currently under siege by property developers. Apparently, our lack of a local plan (because of some bureaucratic nonsense) means that we are virtually powerless to stop any available land in the vicinity being concreted over in the near future. Currently, it looks like the population of our small village may well double.
Secondly, a Bygones article I wrote recently (April article) featured a picture of the offices of a company I worked for back in the 1970s. These had previously been the home of the Crescent Brewery in Burton upon Trent and were a fine example of brewery architecture. Yet the picture had been taken just before this building was demolished to make way for an anonymous and featureless warehouse. I had forgotten just how striking the original building was, until I saw the photograph, and I wondered how any planning authority worthy of the name could have allowed this piece of architectural vandalism to have taken place?
You might say that we should put our trust in the planning authorities, and I would say that you should consider taking more water with it. If you stop for a moment, in any reasonably sized town or city, and look at the range of buildings surrounding you, I think it's instructive to reflect that the mess before you hasn't grown organically, or happened by accident. It was actually planned to look like this. Highly qualified and well-trained people brought all of their expertise to bear to create this environment in which you are to live and work.
Equally, if your town centre is currently a wasteland of charity shops and pawnbrokers (and most are), remember that this is the result of a long term policy to encourage out of town development and discourage parking in town centres (or to earn as much money from it as possible). It isn't the result of forces beyond our elected leaders' control; it is the direct outcome of their policies down the years.
Tourists don't flock to admire the modern and clinical planning of places like Milton Keynes, they head to those places like York, Oxford and Cambridge which have retained their architectural heritage and the nooks and crannies of haphazard development over the centuries. Perhaps they know something our planners don't?
So, I'm a NIMBY. I don't want anything else in my immediate vicinity concreted over, thank you, and, even if I did, I would have no faith in the result being any improvement whatsoever on what has been lost in the process.
I think I'll go and lie down in a darkened room now. Can you shut the door and not make any noise please? I may be some time.