R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The time when we all pretend to celebrate the anniversary of the most famous illegitimate birth in history is almost upon us again. Having lost its true meaning donkey’s years ago its long since been smothered in glitter as an alternative to polishing, which as we all know is impossible with certain items. Not to worry its been re-branded for the modern era. We all worship one god these days and it doesn’t come any shinier than freshly minted in large denominations ready to exchange for worthless trash as instructed by our media masters. The season of wholly excessive mindless indulgence is here again. Enjoy!

Sorry about that, I may have come across as a bit critical lately and I used to be such a nice young lad. I hold my hands up to that, but generally I’m quite a cheerful, if rather insular, old soul. We around here are, in reality, very privileged to live in what is still, for the moment with the obvious reservations, a lovely area. Contrary to expectation I like nothing better than welcoming both genuinely appreciative visitors and newcomers, showing them round and explaining our history and wildlife. It just cuts me to the quick to see such a precious and delicate environment abused and eroded by the greed and exploitation of those with no more interest in the place than how much cash they can suck out of it before moving on, quite literally to denude pastures new for their own personal gain. Truth be told my only real desire is to be allowed to continue to live in peace and enjoy the tranquility of our English countryside for such time as remains to me. Respect is the key, for our environment, the planet and for each other. Big ask it seems.

Speaking of which, the events of the past three and a half years have left me with little of this particular commodity when it comes to our political leaders. We have seen more elections than a Japanese brothel over the last few years or so, all to no avail, and now we have another on the way with, I suspect, a return to cosy two party politics. Will it solve anything? I doubt it, Establishment Rules OK.

Even my friends The Monster Raving Loonies and Brexit are not pitching a candidate in my locality. Our incumbent MP has certainly not represented my views on leaving The EU and there is no other candidate standing for whom I could make my mark without vomiting. I shall, therefore, spoil my ballot paper by writing, with that rarest of political sentiments ‘honesty’, “None of these”. I can do nothing else.

Whatever the outcome we shall still be a divided, broken, nation, irrevocably split down the middle by the Europe question, or more accurately the issue of continuing mass immigration. Not a racist opinion, just common sense. Try standing an empty pint glass in the middle of a priceless Persian carpet. Now pour in a quart of old sump oil. The result will not be a happy one.

Continuing on theme; Remembrance Sunday has just passed. In my youth I can recall that two minutes silence was always observed on Amnesty Day itself, 11th November, no matter what. As eleven O’clock approached everything that possibly could would stop. Traffic would come to a standstill, buses and all, drivers and passengers alike would step out and, with the gunfire from Hyde Park clearly audible in Mitcham, where I then lived, everybody would stand to attention, in silence, until the gun was again heard when normal life would resume. God help anyone who failed to comply. If a funeral should pass I remember my grandfather, and men generally, would remove their hats and clasp them to their chests, with heads bowed, until it had passed. Times change. Seldom for the better.

Modern times it seems are in part responsible for reducing poppy sales prior to remembrance Sunday. More and more people are no longer carrying cash, which is hitting street collections badly. My wife has long been both a collector and a standard bearer at one of our remembrance services. I won’t name names but she tells me that one of our local hostelries bar collection returned just eight pounds, in total, this year and I’ve personally seen precious few poppies being worn. Whatever one’s views on these two horrendous conflagrations and those that have followed. The combatants were not, in the main ‘regulars’ but conscripts. ‘For our tomorrow they gave their today’, so it goes. In return we apparently give sod all these days.

Personally, its been a bad year for death. At time of writing we’re up to around fifteen friends and acquaintances having passed. My funeral suit has barely had time to cool before we’re off to the next and we’ve saved a fortune on dining out by attending all the wakes. It puts a wholly different perspective on money worries as the years role by. With less than twelve years until I’m eighty, if I make it, I suppose its something I should dwell on a little, but with those around me telling me I’m far too wicked to die, together with hearing ‘you can’t take it with you’ so often, I’ve decided it’s not a good deal and I’m not going at all.

Believe it or not I started this blog with the idea of it becoming a kind of modern version/tribute to Gilbert White’s Natural History Of Selborne or Jack Hargreaves’ long running Out Of Town series, a kind of online diary chronicling wildlife and the country way of life. Unfortunately it has long since gone mightily off piste I’m afraid, mainly because I’m constantly sidetracked into struggling to defend the place from those who would destroy everything I hold dear, leaving little to write about beyond building sites, naff modern architecture, cycle races and insanely loud music blaring across the countryside at all hours of the day and night.

I did notice, while pottering in my garden on 20/11, three huge flocks of fieldfare, totalling over a thousand individuals, passing overhead, towards the north west. Are these migratory thrushes a harbinger of a hard winter to come? Wait and see.

Primarily of course I remain a naturalist at heart. I understand the passion of the climate extinction mob, perhaps better placed fifty years ago for best effect when few gave a toss, but question their methods and scientific argument. In reality we probably have much in common although my personal bandwagon is centred more on habitat loss, overpopulation and greed fired by our all consuming capitalist system, of which I confess I am a part, that requires ever more of us and all manner of consumables to continue to function.

We in the west had more than sufficient to our needs by the early seventies yet continued in our pursuit of wealth and luxury to the point where we are now perishing in huge numbers from gluttony and its associated health disorders. Surely with a little selfless restraint we can find it within ourselves to make room for the other species with which we share our planet? If we continue to abuse their habitats they must surely perish, but it would be folly to imagine from our smug, lofty, position that this would not affect us. The intricacies of connection and dependency across the natural world are such that no species is an island and if those humble beings that we so disrespect should go we will shortly follow.

Flooding is with us again and of course extreme weather is a factor but as I have said before there are other aspects to this that we should consider. Torrential rain in Britain is nothing new, not dredging our rivers, filling in or failing to maintain our once extensive system of ditches and drains, deforestation of uplands (woodland is hundreds of times more efficient at absorbing rainfall than grassland) and extensive building within the floodplains of rivers is!

The clue is generally in the name i.e. Somerset, from ‘summer settlement’ unsuitable for winter occupation, or Fishpond. Take a look at the images taken of recent flooding, the vast majority of dwellings are of fairly new construction. In recent times houses were built near to us at a place called ‘The Causeway’ (strong clue) against the express advice of local knowledge. The new occupants were surprised, a few months later, to find water rising through their floorboards. No one else was!

Another thing which puzzles me more than a little in this, is where Climate Extinction have got to? More than happy to cripple The City of London, and much else besides with their egotistical protestations, when an opportunity to help those afflicted by their predicted horrors, underline their worthy purpose and win more disciples presents itself the warmists seem to have missed an open goal and are nowhere to be seen.

I’m no meteorologist but I will at this point put my neck squarely on the block and make a very risky prediction against the run of overwhelming published scientific opinion; Starting in the next year or so we shall begin to see a return to seasonal averages temperature wise, and perhaps well below, across the globe. This will continue over the next five years at least and quite possibly well into the future. Don’t throw out your thermal undies quite yet. I believe that sunspot activity has a huge and currently understated impact on our climate and we are, by all accounts, entering a rather dramatic solar minimum. Let’s see who’s right!

While our government presses blindly on with HS2, which is set to destroy or damage over 108 ancient woodlands on its merry way, we are now being implored to plant more trees. You couldn’t make it up! Given a good few hundred years or so to replace those already designated, quite literally, for the chop and far, far longer before these may be in any way considered ‘ancient’ (ancient woodland cannot be replaced by planting trees tomorrow, again the clue is in the name) this is a wholly laudable idea, but where they are to be planted and what species are selected is also absolutely critical. Our country is one of many diverse habitats, aside of but including woodland, and we must be careful what we smother, albeit with the best of intentions. The Great Boreal Forest and Amazonia are more worthy targets and their preservation and reconstruction are vital to our survival.

Of course overpopulation is the true driver of deforestation and all of our other environmental issues but we must, it seems, continue to pretend otherwise and devote all of our efforts and truly awesome sums of money to a myriad futile projects such as wind farms, solar panels and even abstinence from meat consumption as a salve to the brainwashed masses who would prefer to continue to believe in anything other than the reality which so obviously surrounds them.

Never mind. Ignore all the PC nonsense. Lets just relax and enjoy the season. I wish you all a lovely Gender Neutral, Sustainably Sourced Vegan Winter Festival And Zero Carbon Emissions New Year.

Wheels Within Wheels.

The death of yet another local institution looks likely as our country communities continue to spiral down to their ultimate demise. It appears that Chiddingstone Fete is to come to an end, due to lack of support, and with it the village dance. The largest and best attended in the district in times gone by, Four Elms, Marsh Green and Cowden cannot be far behind.

Once at the heart of every out of town community’s calendar, such events are no longer the place to be seen, to chat with neighbours and raise funds for local amenities. Not fashionable or sophisticated enough they have been pushed to the margins by a rash of more trendy, in your face events. Their time has come. Just one more nail in rurality’s coffin.

After the debacle at the end of October, despite a general election having at last been called, surely no one can continue to delude themselves that we are a democratic nation? Anarchy rules and a more volatile population would, by now, be sowing the seeds of civil war. Our political system is broken. Our elected MP’s no longer represent our majority interests, only their own.

Fortunately there are none more docile than the British. It has been suggested, by the more militant among us, that we should all abstain from voting at this election to send a message of no confidence in any of the contestants and I do see the point in sending a strong message to these pathetic tossers. Yet I was raised to appreciate that this is a hard won privilege, even if it is little more than a pretense, and that it is the duty of every citizen to exercise their right. Also if one does not do so we cannot complain about whatever we ultimately end up with. However, there is a third way.

Our nation already has a well established party which I believe contests every seat, with as yet little success but which now deserves our undivided support. A vote for them would at least ensure that we get exactly what we deserve without further disappointment or sense of betrayal. I therefore urge you to have the courage of your convictions and vote Monster Raving Loony at this, and every possible opportunity. Let’s all canvas as many friends and acquaintances as possible and return them to govern us with a massive majority, then at least we would have the government that we expect. With Noel Edmonds appointed Prime Minister, for his vast experience with ‘Deal or No Deal’, Brexit would be a breeze and who can deny that its high time broccoli was legalised?

No more delusions, no false promises or expectations, just exactly what we vote for, a complete, unmitigated, bunch of raving mad idiots. Same as usual but without any pretense. On this scale it would (unlike the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ fix) be impossible to deny the result without flatly rejecting democratic process. What would the establishment make of that I wonder?

With the misery of the music festival season hopefully behind us for another year, autumn once again brought renewed joy at the end of last month with the Hever Castle Triathlon which once more imprisoned us in our homes for another weekend, with one-way traffic restrictions 7.30am-12.30pm Saturday 28/9 and 7.30am-2.30pm Sunday 29/9. Officially, as residents, we are allowed in and out if you can get out of the end of our lane, but none of the competitors will give way for a second and the other end is jammed solid with the arriving hoards trying to reach their campsite. Even if successful you must then run the gauntlet of thousands of car thumping ‘athletes’ focusing their solitary braincells on achieving their singular conscious objective of a personal best.

That aside its not so much the actual event which is the problem. Unlike the three nights of sleep depravation wrought by the NeverWorld nonsense this event does not, in itself, disturb us too greatly, so long as we don’t try to venture beyond the confines of our own lane. The problem is that it does not end there. Having found the area, huge numbers of competitors now travel back to train throughout the year. The majority are, I’m sure, despite being dead from the neck up, decent folk, nevertheless, numbers are now huge and there is always a more militant litter flinging element who threaten violence if we dare to get in their way.

My clandestine intelligence network tells me that those critical of my views, who claim to represent us locally, are now squealing about the situation and have revealed that Volvo are allegedly set to start sponsoring the event next year, which can only mean it is set to get even bigger.

There was a time, a few years ago, when we had a meaningful opportunity to register local opposition at a meeting convened in the village hall. Out of an adult population exceeding four hundred, who were loudly declaring their objections in private, just six of us bothered to turn up on the night. We are, therefore, probably stuck with it forever. Like it or not folks that’s how true democracy works!

Our lanes have been completely usurped by cyclists, dozens wherever we go in the week, hundreds at weekends and on occasion thousands. This means it is now impossible to go for a quiet walk at any time, even in winter. It has had more impact on our locality than anything else, including music festivals and planning permissions, and has completely changed the character of the area from tranquil rural retreat to perpetual velodrome.

Given all of the above I seldom go anywhere within our home district these days and only rarely even visit the local hostelries, preferring to travel a little in order to get away from it all. The back garden is, until the development to our rear begins, my only remaining sanctuary and it is now time to put that to bed for the winter. In truth I don’t do too much other than a judicious pruning and pulling of weeds. Experience has taught me that the winter is a great ally and will do much of the work for you with only a minimum of assistance. With this in mind I set about turning over the veggie plot. The idea being to inter the weeds, break up the soil into large sods, and leave it for the worms and frost to break down into a fine tilth, ready for spring.

I’ve always found physical labour, without any pressure or deadlines, to be great therapy for stress, so, after a couple of dry days following a wet spell, I got stuck in and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not so the younger generation I fear. No muck and sweat for them. No contact with reality at all it seems. If its not on a fluorescent screen it doesn’t exist.

My friend over the road was telling me recently that his kids (both at primary school) and their schoolmates are fretting over Brexit and the Climate Extinction thing to the point where they can’t sleep at night. That’s very sad, I don’t think we were even aware of politics at that age, but it set me thinking. In my view the problem is not the reality that they face but the constant bombardment they experience from all the many forms of media they are subjected to.

We grew up in relative poverty under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Even since living here, in the mid eighties every house in the country received the government of the day’s advisory pamphlet ‘Protect And Survive’ as an attack looked imminent. This outlined how to survive an atomic blast by putting sellotape over door and window cracks, to keep out radioactive dust, and hiding under a table with a mattress on top. Utter bollocks of course, it was just to keep us quietly occupied while we fried. If caught in the open we were told to get down and assume a foetal position. Presumably in order to kiss your arse goodbye!

The two generations before ours had world wars to fight and die in and prior to that there was infant mortality, epidemics, and starvation to face up to, yet there was far less mental illness and neurosis. Ditch the shrink, bin the Prozac and just turn the bloody screens off!

I was interested to read Peter Hitchens, writing in The Mail on Sunday on 13th October. He was pointing out the idiocy of closing and demolishing Didcot ‘A’ coal-fired power station rather than mothballing it as a hedge against the time when our new renewable marvels inevitably fail us. This has a generating capacity of 1.44 gigawatts while China currently has 259 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity under development, on top of the 993 gigawatts already in operation. India is also increasing its 200 gigawatts of coal-fired generation and I’ve not even mentioned The USA.

Here in the UK our whole requirement for electrical generation, from all available sources, is 85 gigawatts. If we give up electricity completely it will make no difference on a world scale whatsoever.

I’ve been banging on about over population for years but everyone tells me that nothing can be done (if interested at all). Never have I said it will be easy and at the level it has been allowed to reach it would now require horrendous draconian measures to have even minimal effect. Now little Getta Iceberg and Climate Extinction may at last have come up with a solution, perhaps the final solution, as they push so forcibly for an unrealistic rush to zero CO2 emissions.

Even with the application of some new technology, that would mean a return to pre industrial revolution living standards. For a start virtually all current transport systems, on land, sea, and air would be defunct and we would be faced with a return to relying on beasts of burden and sail. Virtually all food would need to be grown locally. Nothing exotic or out off season, no more foreign holidays or long commutes to work. No more reliance on fossil fuels. Thus many drugs would be unobtainable, as would most pesticides, herbicides and the fertilisers that have massively boosted food production over the last hundred years.

The good news is that this would mean an end to plastics (with it would go all man made textiles of course, together with mobile phones, computers etc) and a great deal of pollution, and the bad? The planet would no longer be capable of sustaining more than two billion of us, meaning that most of us would need to leave, hence over a few decades at most, almost six billion of us would succumb to starvation, cold and disease. One way of fixing it!

I wrote last month of some of the massive natural drivers for global warming beyond any human control, but outside of the confines of our home planet there are even greater forces at work which may yet result in our weather going in entirely the opposite direction in the very near future. Sunspot activity has long been cited by some as the real force behind increasing global temperatures over the last couple of decades with CO2 levels being something of a resultant red herring rather than a cause in itself.

NASA has recently stated that from 2020 we will be heading into a Grand Solar Minimum in the eleven year solar cycle as defined by the number of sunspots. This will peak in 2025 when our sun will be at its weakest for 200 years. The effect could last for fifty years and might be of similar intensity to The Dalton Minimum (1790 – 1830) when average global temperatures fell by around 2c and included of course 1816, The Year With No Summer.

Fancy a frost fair anyone? Perhaps we should tell our kids a different bedtime story?

Roads To Hell, Pathways To Paradise.

A while back I wrote that only The Establishment truly rules our once great nation now and that Parliament has become little more than a sop for the gullible. Democracy is dead, if ever it was alive, in truth it was never more than an illusion and voting has now been clearly demonstrated to be a futile waste of our time and energy. Our politicians have betrayed our past heroes to ensure we are now trapped in a gutless, undemocratic country where our so called representatives, elected in good faith, for the most part ignore the will of the majority in order to further their own views. This has made us the laughing stock, not only of Europe, but the entire world. Anyone want to disagree now?

Aside of loathsome parasites I may have mentioned previously that there is much else that I dislike in the modern world, such as saying ‘like’ every other word, starting every sentence with ‘So’ or ‘OK’ and restaurants that can, seemingly, no longer afford to provide plates and insist on serving food on slates, bricks, lumps of wood etc while inflicting ‘artisan’s bread’ and a dish of rancid olive oil on their customers rather than warm rolls and butter.

Not least among these irritating boosts to my blood pressure is air kissing. Now I’ve nothing against a decent hug from a lady with whom I’m well acquainted or even a sly grope with one I hardly know, so long as the wife doesn’t catch on (Its OK she never reads this). What I don’t get is the nervous, pseudo fondle with some old duck you’ve only just met, where you sort of loosely encircle them with your arms and suck on the air three inches behind their left earhole for an unnecessarily long period of embarrassment before nervously disengaging. Tongue round the tonsils and a handful of whatever’s on offer or nothing for me, thanks all the same.

Another thing; people in audiences who whoop! What’s wrong with them? Has a spring gone in their seat? Have they just been shafted from behind, or are they retarded in some way?

By the time anyone reads this month’s offering I shall have passed my sixty eighth birthday, hence the noticeably more mellow, politically correct, tone of my presentation. In less than twelve years I shall be eighty, if society is unfortunate enough to still have me around. The worry now is whether enough time remains for me to grow up and what to do with the remains of my life, other than griping about virtually everything since The Vietnam War, before The Grim Reaper catches up with me and I am forced to return my aged carcass to the universe for recycling.

Speaking of ageing, I see that Nigel Benn is to make a comeback at the age of 55 – 23 years after his last fight. Is that wise? True the late, great ‘Old Mongoose’, Archie Moore, fought an up and coming Muhammed Ali at that age and managed to last four rounds, but really?

Its not the fitness or even physical hardness that go, although after such a long lay-off punch resistance is bound to be an issue. The real problem is reaction time and no amount of training can recover it. You may feel 100% at fifty, sixty or even seventy, judging from personal experience, but your reactions will have slowed, perhaps imperceptibly, and in this game a fraction of a second is the difference between avoiding a blow and a broken jaw. Nevertheless, ‘Good luck with that Nigel’.

Although personally still a young man, I have so far failed to return to the boxing ring since last year’s adventure, not because I am unwilling or feeling my age, but rather due to a lack of company on the way to the gym and the fact that they will not allow me to spar at my age. Now I’m not dopey enough to want to fight some stonking great, super fit, twenty five year old but to travel some ten miles and pay just to do exercises that I can replicate at home seems rather pointless. Its not violence that appeals but there is something elegant and addictive about the movements involved. A bit of gentle sparring also works wonders in focusing concentration and relieving stress, even if it may involve the odd thick ear or bloody hooter. Neither is it about machismo or vanity, its about keeping everything mobile and staying as fit as possible.

With those simple objectives in mind, I continue to workout with the same vigour as I might in the gym for around two hours a session, three times a week, focussing on as many muscle groups as I can, including sessions of aerobics and flexibility. My knees are much better, four years after retirement, and I can now run again, a little, without the sharp pains that used to afflict them. All in all I feel great and with my mother still going at ninety seven I may yet have a good few years remaining. I might equally well drop dead tomorrow so I’d better get on with it.

At the start of the month we left Hever to continue in its determination to shed its long held title of ‘rural England at its Tudor best’ in favour of the now preferred ‘anything goes entertainment theme park of the south east’, and headed in the opposite direction once more, mainly just for a break away but also to take a look for an alternative.

It may sound like a cliché but its been a great year for the roses, with unusually little black spot for once. There were also a large number of brandy bottle beetles about earlier in the year, Those metallic green ones with large swellings on the male’s thighs, although I can’t imagine there is any correlation between the two.

I’ve always been a naturalist, ever since I could walk, but as a young man my birdwatching tick-list was a simple one; A lovely blackbird with a pair of great-tits, then, by the time I’d finished having a good look at the bush I would be ready for a lark, perhaps even a goose, on the way to the seashore and may well have got a woodcock by the time I arrived for some puffin and, with luck, a shag or two before teatime. Maturity, however, brings increased sophistication and a desire for some more adventurous twitching, so what could be better than a trip to one of our greatest nature reserves, Minsmere, in order to further this ambition. Thus it was that we duly arrived at The White Horse at Sibton a few miles inland to recharge our batteries ready for an avian day out and a few forays into the rest of the locality.

Imagine my horror, next morning, to pick up the newspaper over a relaxed breakfast and read an article concerning the proposed new Sizewell C. Always on the cards, it was assumed that a half mile long jetty was to be built in order to facilitate the supply of building materials by sea. OK, if it must be done, that makes sense, but now some genius has come up with a money saving idea to upgrade eight miles of railway track, by-pass several currently tranquil, picturesque villages and supply the millions of tons of material required by road. This will mean a daily movement of around a thousand lorries a day for the next ten years.

What an excellent idea! Forgive the unfortunate pun, but this means that EDF will be able to kill two birds with one stone (perhaps with every stone) and not only save money but potentially ruin Britains premier nature reserve and a large part of the entire Heritage Coast at the same time. Bargain! You can make your own views known at loveminsmere.org

That potential insanity aside, which is quite rightly attracting huge opposition from the locals, and surely cannot be allowed to come to fruition? This part of Suffolk remains, at present, every bit as attractive and remote as North Norfolk with even less in the way of random development. Such as there is seems to be confined within the region’s existing market towns and appears to have been relatively well integrated. The whole region still seems to retain the sense of peaceful rurality that we once enjoyed at home.

Living in the moment, we put worries for the future aside and headed off to Minsmere with expectations of buzzing hoards of insects and flocks of rare birds as far as the eye could see in the unseasonably warm weather. Probably not the best time of year, admittedly, but this was the deadest place I have ever visited. For the entire morning we saw absolutely nothing, aside of a myxy rabbit in the car-park, zero, although towards midday we did get to see what was my first ever wild otter in one of the scrapes.

The afternoon was marginally better, as we visited the more open heath side of the two thousand acre reserve, with some dragonflies, a pair of stonechat and a few avocets. Just a bad day? Maybe. A visit to Dunwich Heath the next day revealed a stunning blaze of purple heather as far as the eye could see, replete with plenty of dragonflies and grayling butterflies, but things ain’t what they used to be, anywhere. Song birds are disappearing at a pace of knots. Our morning chorus at home has become little more than the occasional tweet and whereas in my youth the briefest road trip would result in a windscreen obscured by the shattered corpses of a thousand insects I drove from Kent to the depths of Suffolk and back without a single observable fatality. We should be very worried.

I may have appeared a bit sceptical about some green issues of late but I’m really not, I’ve been convinced for many decades that we are a filthy, greedy species and that mother Earth would benefit hugely from our rapid demise. With all the misinformation out there and the near impossibility of knowing what passes for truth these days I’m just a bit cautious in accepting the science and motivation behind the Climate Extinction thing and whether we can do much about it anyway, although young Getta Iceberg and her cronies do have a point with the capitalist system. As I’ve been banging on about for donkey’s years, any system which relies on perpetual growth must ultimately fail. We had far less when I was young and yet people seemed far more content with their lot.

Its great that we are at last waking up to the way in which we have abused our planet and that so many young folk have finally become motivated to protest about an issue that until recently they would have readily dismissed as the province of boring adults. Even so I remain hugely sceptical of those with a vested interest in advancing their sometimes skewed solutions, if indeed they are realistic solutions at all. For my entire adult life, at least forty five years, the conservation movement, myself included, have been ignored or treated with contempt so why, suddenly, are our views, long dismissed as the raving of imbeciles, now being presented as a revelation of urgent genius when the time for effective action probably passed, despite our protestations, back in the seventies when informed scientific opinion was that the planet was cooling and we were slipping back into an ice-age.

One of the fashionable solutions is to eat less meat as best estimates are that today we share our planet with over 1.3 billion cattle. A report by The United Nations as long ago as November 2006, hopefully a reliable source, stated that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions emanated from the guts of domestic livestock, cows being by far the biggest contributors. To put that into perspective, that’s 5% more than is generated by the entire global transport network incorporating road, rail, sea and air.

I find those figures hard to believe, but have to accept that in continuing to eat meat I am confirming myself as a two-faced hypocrite, as I could no more slaughter an animal than fly to The Moon, yet I am happy for others to do my dirty work, while I munch on a juicy steak. So what is the answer?

Many partial vegetarians delude themselves that it is more humane to eat fish, as they cannot feel pain to the same degree, however, recent research by Dr Lynne Sneddon, of Liverpool University, concludes that in fact they do feel pain with similar intensity to mammals such as ourselves. The majority of those we eat are of course sea fish, gutted live and fully conscious on the conveyor belts of trawlers, without being stunned in any way. Just because they can’t scream and don’t bleed too much does not mean they feel no pain, it just helps to salve our higher feelings.

A wholly vegetarian diet does not appeal to the majority of folk I’m afraid and there are issues with vitamin deficiencies which have to be addressed by popping a pill or two. In truth you can live perfectly well on a diet consisting solely of potato, whereas eating only rabbits would very soon result in death from a phenomena known as rabbit starvation. If anyone ever proves that spuds feel pain we’re in real trouble.

The solution which would serve to reconcile most consciences would probably be met if we could perfect the growing of meat artificially from tissue culture, my old sphere of operations, but what the environmental implications of that may be I have no idea. The only unarguable yet truly inconvenient truth remains that we have massively overpopulated our planet and cannot, at current levels, help but destroy it. If there were fewer of us, chewing on dead animals, there would be nothing like so many belching, farting herbivores contributing to its demise either.

A particularly dangerous development which I have heard rumoured, but can hardly bring myself to believe, even in gutless, undemocratic Britain is that it is about to be made illegal to deny that climate change is taking place. If true this marks the end of reasoned scientific debate on the subject and the promotion of one sided propaganda in order to brainwash an entire generation. Yet another retrogressive milestone along the route which ends in the total loss of the right to free speech in our now pathetic nation.

At present I don’t imagine that I have so far breached any of the coming ‘New Speak’ laws but with a ton of coal ready stashed to survive the coming winter it can’t be too long before I get the midnight knock from the thought police and am carted off to be incarcerated in some cosy solar powered cell for my dreadful crimes against humanity. I just comfort myself that at least I may thus be spared extortionate care home fees in the incontinence of my twilight years.

The fact remains that, whether we are allowed to say so or not, long before we arrived, over the last three million years in particular, The Earth’s climate has fluctuated wildly between long periods of severe cold and shorter mild interludes. Recent evidence indicates that flips between the two can occur over very short periods in geological terms, certainly within a human lifetime, and I believe that we need to just calm down and be very sure about exactly what is going on before taking any radical actions. We’ve (Homo sapiens that is) only been around for about 160,000 years and the industrial revolution, which we hasten to blame, only began a couple of hundred years ago, while climate change has been going on for eons.

About 252 million years ago, with not a human being in sight, The Great Permian Extinction is now thought to have begun with vast quantities of methane bubbling to the surface of frozen seas where, having accumulated due to bacterial decay over millions of years, it had lain trapped beneath the ocean floor.

As the Earth’s tectonic plates ground together to form the super continent Pangea carbon dioxide may well have spewed from volcanic vents in sufficient quantities to start the thaw. The eruption of giant bubbles of methane was the worst news for life on Earth in its entire history, before or since, culminating in the demise of around 70% of all land species and up to 96% of those in the sea. Even the later event that wiped out the dinosaurs did not begin to compare.

Methane is not only about twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, it also reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water. Over around twenty thousand years this locked up huge quantities of atmospheric oxygen, reducing levels from 30% to only 12%. Among thousands of other species this spelt the end of the giant insects such as huge dragonflies (Meganeura), with wingspans well in excess of two feet across, as their simple respiratory system could no longer cope with the reduced levels. Peat forming plants suffered similarly, until evolution produced new species capable of surviving at the lower levels. The old ones effectively suffocated meaning that coal deposition ceased for around seven million years.

Now the bad news. Actually fairly old and possibly very bad news. I must credit all of this information, and much of the previous to Christopher Lloyd’s riveting ‘What On Earth Evolved’, first published in 2009. My wife knows him, so hopefully he may not sue me for blatant plagiarism: ‘While studying methane emissions from beneath the Arctic sea Dr Orjan Gustaffason and his team from the University Of Sweden have discovered a series of ‘chimneys’ on the sea floor from which, in some places, large bubbles of methane are escaping at more than a hundred times the background level.’

Is history starting to repeat itself? Could this, rather than my winter fuel eccentricity and a billion plus farting cows, be the real reason for any warming over the past couple of decades? If so its going to take rather more than a few electric cars and a couple of solar panels to fix it. Giving up your ham roll will make little difference. In fact I would make the most of it while you can as if this is true we’ve almost certainly had it!

Up All Night, Worrying Over My Dirty Energy And Losing Wood.

“I am sure you will be delighted to hear that we are in the final stages of building the festival for NeverWorld 2019. We have been braving the elements to bring you the best party in Kent yet again. The site is looking green and verdant, the décor team are hard at work weaving their NeverWorld magic to bring an even more spectacular show than last year!”

Needless to say ‘delighted’ fell hugely short of describing my reaction, but so began the blurb which introduced this year’s three and a half day (and much of the night) NeverWorld auditory nightmare. Which should have continued, “If you live locally and you or any of your young children expect to get any sleep over the next three nights, tough shit!” It didn’t, I guess we now take that as read, despite Article 3 of The Human Rights Act of 1998 defining sleep depravation as a form of torture. Now there’s food for thought!

Hard to believe I know but I was young once, although I’m now so old that I can still remember a time before NeverWorld shook us to our foundations, The Hever Triathlon Series gave ownership of our lanes to thousands of cyclists, and endless planning applications effectively killed the golden goose, on which the resultant developments were traded, by making what was exceptional ordinary.

It seems barely credible now but little more than fifteen years ago this was a nice place to live. Property rarely came on the market and if it did it was snapped up in a couple of weeks rather than years. There is, undeniably, still a feeling of community but it has become fragmented into a number of cliques whereas there was once a feeling of overall unity which would never have tolerated such nonsense. An altogether more genteel time, now lost forever.

Of course I fully appreciate that farmers need to diversify and that some local youngsters and a few inconsiderate older morons actually support these events. As far as I am aware, however, the vast majority of long established locals remain firmly opposed and hate this unwarranted disturbance in the countryside. Sadly I also have to say that most appear to have less guts than a pair of kippers these days and are either too idle or too frightened to put their heads above the parapet and take issue with the organisers or the licensing authorities.

I’ve even heard that some of NeverWorld’s most vociferous critics now, allegedly, accept free tickets from the organisers which they pass to friends who wish to attend, while they themselves decamp to any toy town retreat for the duration. I cannot help but draw parallels between this and the actions of a Judas goat in a slaughterhouse. Good news for the organisers of course. With such determined local resistance this kind of noxious irritation can only continue to flourish.

It appears that most London Boroughs insist on music events finishing before midnight, 11pm usually I believe. We drove past a huge one recently at Sandown Park Racetrack but it was all over by ten O’clock. Quite why then we must endure this horror in a quiet rural backwater until the early hours remains a mystery. In this age of equality us rustic types, it seems, are deemed inferior.

One of the excuses for permitting this annual affront to our sensibilities is that we are situated on the flightpath to Gatwick and must be hardened to such disturbance. A complete red herring of course but it did set me thinking about my un-green fossil fuel addiction, hence the following computations concerning the cumulative amount actually used by planes during just the 30 seconds that each takes to pass over my house.

Obviously there are more during the holiday season and fewer at other times so I’ve assumed twenty per hour overall i.e. 20 per hour for 14 hours a day taking 30 seconds each to fly over = 2.35 hours every day, assuming mainly twin engines burning a ton each per hour = 4.7 tons a day = 1715.5 tons of fossil fuel per annum being burned by planes just during the time it takes for them to complete a 90 degree arc over my house, against 1 consumed on my grate, across an entire year, to provide me with all of my heating, including hot water i.e. it would take me 1715.5 years to burn as much fossil fuel as the planes passing overhead during the same period.

OK then I’ll stop burning coal if they stop flying. The odd thing is that some time soon I shall undoubtedly be vilified to the point where I am forced, at huge expense, to find an alternative, whereas air traffic is predicted to double without our dear government so much as blinking an eye. Bloody amazing! Cut the one sided propaganda crap and I might just sit up and take notice.

I was also amazed to read in my Sunday paper that 1% of Britain’s total electricity output is consumed by supermarket fridges alone. We also dump 50% of all the food we produce, while all the time an entire reservoir of treated water is still being lost to leakages every week. Do we perhaps need to rethink our approach to ‘green’ issues? We can now pay a company to bury charcoal, flown in from Namibia, to offset our carbon footprint. What a bloody marvellous idea! Convert the burning Amazon Rain Forest to charcoal, shove it in a sodding great pit and their we are. Problem solved!

I’m not the first to be concerned about our ever increasing population. Way back in 1768 the economist Thomas Malthus was already famously prophesying catastrophe by ‘epidemics, pestilence and plague’ that he predicted would ‘advance in terrific array and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands’. He was prompted to express these concerns by the human population rising above one billion for the first time. He may have been a little previous but today, only a little over two hundred years later, we have increased eightfold and are quickly approaching 8,000,000,000. His predictions will inevitably come to fruition, it is just a matter of time.

I almost cheered up a bit when I read in the same newspaper that world population growth is at last starting to slow. It seems that we’re finally realising just how awful children are and are electing to have fewer of the repugnant little buggers. Also, infertility rates are rising, but, of course, that’s not the real issue. Apparently its been my fault, and that of my contemporaries, all along. Obvious really, we are selfishly living too long and not turning our toes up quickly enough to clear the decks for the up and coming hoards.

Sorry about that! I really do apologise, but not to worry, I have no intention of lingering too long in this bloody awful world that we’ve created. I shall be only too happy to quit their screwed up neurotic, dystopian, wonderland, leaving them to play with their glowing gismos as they pop hundredweights of Prozac, puzzle over which set of genitalia to wear today, and struggle to decide whether they’re coming or going.

Its odd you know, I initially thought I would struggle to write enough to fill a monthly blog before I filled with vitriol, fuelled by our modern world, and started spitting bile in all directions but, having insulted everyone in the district at least twice, including my wife and many further afield, I still find it all too easy to drone on forever but I do, nevertheless, try and find time to include a bit on our local natural history as I originally intended.

That said I wrote so much last month that there was no time to mention the enormous hatch of ants on 22nd & 23rd. We get a bulk hatching every year but never have I seen quite such an intensity as this year. They were emerging everywhere on those evenings. So dense that the ground was black in parts while the late sunshine glittered as it reflected off millions upon millions of airborne queens and their short lived suitors. As one nest finished another began, yet inside two hours the nuptial flights were complete, leaving the ground covered with the cellophane litter of their disposable wings. One of the great spectacles of the natural world albeit conducted in miniature, while almost as spectacular was what appeared to be a huge flock of goldcrests in the tree opposite a few days later on 26th.

This month, on the 22nd, I had a very pleasant interlude when I managed to unglue my young friend Harry from his accursed electronic diversions and take him fishing for the day. Now I know I’ve just been banging on about not impacting on other sentient beings and how awful children are but I am entirely comfortable with my actions here, as I am a completely two-faced hypocrite. That said, I did not fish myself and, hopefully, we did little more than inconvenience our aquatic friends for an hour or two. On the other hand I do feel that I may have done my bit to show my young charge that the real world is worth a look if the power runs out.

I won’t reveal the location of our venue as I’m also wholly selfish and don’t want anyone else to enjoy it. Suffice it to say that I’ve fished there for over sixty years. It was one shilling and sixpence a day when I started and is now ten quid.

At first young Harry was impressed with a few decent rudd. Previously he’d had a couple of days fishing, mainly on The Norfolk Broads, and had caught a few small roach and perch, so these were a step up. Then bang! he was into a nine pound carp and all hell broke loose. Amazingly, with a little coaching, he managed to land it. Inside two hours he’d caught a bigger fish out of this water than I had in sixty years. Beginners luck! A few more rudd followed, so recently ‘awesome’ but now designated ‘tiddlers’. Then wallop! and off went a seven and a half pound carp which he again managed to bring to the landing net.

The day concluded with a few more rudd and a small bream. We both had a lovely time and are looking forward to another session soon. I’m hoping to persuade Harry to bring his Play Station along next time so that I can throw it as far out into the lake as possible.

Now then, I mentioned last month that I was astounded to see that they still have a few massive elm trees surviving around Goodwood in West Sussex. Like a Spitfire performing a victory roll in a cloudless sky, the choc of willow on leather, an E-Type Jaguar gliding by, or scantily clad, semi comatose young girls chucking up in the gutters of our university towns on a Saturday night, they are icons of quintessential Britishness not easily dismissed from the national psyche.

Throughout my youth these towering pillars of leaf, replete with their suckering bases, were the defining monument of the English countryside. Even on my way to primary school in Mitcham, South London, back in the fifties, I would pass a great row of giants every day. Seen everywhere, they dominated our landscape as far as the eye could see in the countryside, a seemingly eternal testimony to all things natural and permanent.

They were always regarded as a dangerous tree even back then for their disconcerting habit of suddenly, on a perfectly still hot day, dropping huge limbs for no apparent reason. One theory of why this should happen was offered by the well known dendrologist, Oliver Rackham. He believed they were most likely infected with bacterial wetwood which generated methane at sufficient pressure to, effectively, blow off limbs. To the huge detriment of anyone who happened to be passing beneath at the time. Dangerous maybe but not threatening to the survival of elms as a species.

Then everything changed in the late 60’s when, starting in Tewkesbury in 65, Dutch Elm Disease struck. By 1972 every large elm within 40 miles was dead. Its spread accelerated in the long hot summer of 76 and today it has become something of a national rarity. This was not the first time the disease had struck. It rears its head every so often, and probably has done for millennia, then for reasons unknown it subsides, but this strain (or strains) was particularly virulent.

It takes its name from the Dutch scientists who identified it during an earlier outbreak in Holland and is caused by a group of fungi of the Ascomycota family, Ophiostoma ulmi, Ophiostoma himal-ulmi and Ophiostoma nova-ulmi. Back in the seventies we knew it as Ceratocystis ulmi but times change as does binomial nomenclature these days, I guess.

It is spread by the beetles Scolytus scolytus and S. multistriatus who transport the spores from tree to tree via their young as they emerge from their burrows beneath the bark and also via the mycelium to the root system where trees grow adjacent to one another. It kills by blocking the vascular system preventing the tree from taking up water which then effectively dies from drought. Local to me long dead elm stumps, can still be seen lining one side of Mill Lane at Chiddingstone. A sad testimony to that which was once so common.

Apart from small pockets such as the area around Brighton, where the council adopted a strict cut and burn policy of infected trees and their close neighbours as soon as the problem became apparent, mature specimens are now a rarity. The roots often send up suckers which are still a fairly common sight but although these generally thrive until around twenty feet high they then succumb to reinfection and quickly wither.

Sadly many of our native or long established species are now similarly under threat from a variety of different, but mainly fungal, diseases. The ash at the bottom of my garden, beyond my rear fence, now appears to be dying of Chalara ash dieback while our horse chestnuts are suffering a three pronged attack from leaf miner moths which leave them vulnerable to bleeding canker. They are also suffering from leaf blotch. Individually none of these is fatal but when they hit as a triple whammy its a different story. This multiple assault first began to be noticed along the south side of Wimbledon Common but is now widespread, although on my recent foray to Hampton Court I noticed that most in that vicinity and around Esher still appear to be healthy.

I’m off to Suffolk in a day or two. Close by the land of my forefathers, the prime objective is relaxation rather than relocation, although a look around Bungay is on the cards with that in mind. A visit to Minsmere, birdwatching, good food and the odd pint with no bloody music festivals, cyclists or planning applications should restore my soul. I will return a tranquil, uncritical, being at peace with himself and the world. Until some other bastard winds me up!

Big Bang For A Social Pariah As Charlie The Shrimp Sucks It Up.

So here we are. The kitchen is finished and looking good. Sadly we are so impoverished by its creation that we are now reliant on scraps from the neighbours to sustain us. Those that still speak to the social pariah (Should that be piranha?), that is, who dared say that he preferred farmers to cyclists and pop festivals and questioned the wisdom of disenfranchising our agricultural friends, who could so easily sell out and abandon us to the persuasive ways of the myriad property developers already feasting their eyes on our once green and pleasant environs.

Cut to the bone by adverse comments from a certain section of our community, so traumatised by the actions of a farmer having the effrontery to farm in what was so recently working countryside but is now clearly their exclusive playground, many would probably expect me to reject their remarks in a fit of pique, but instead I applaud the rights of all to express themselves as a matter of free speech. Therefore, I respect the validity of their opinions every bit as much as my own. Far from putting them down I would simply like to say, “Up with everybody’s democratic rights”, but most especially I want to say to all of my recent critics, “Up yours!”

Thus chastened, I think that I may also have been a bit unfair to cyclists in the past. To put the record straight; I don’t hate all of them, just the ones that ride in armadas with their pea-sized brains (In this subspecies, H.sapiens-tossus, these tiny organs are located within the anal sphincter which is a diagnostic feature when distinguishing them from true human beings) crushed alongside their genitalia, together atrophied by the continually restricted blood supply wrought by their over-tensioned Lycra intellect inhibitors. However, I do think that they should carry some form of insurance for those occasions when they run us down in the street or gouge the side of our vehicles while distracted by flinging litter, gobbing, or uttering obscene abuse. For this to be viable they would of course need to display some means of identification and by way of conciliation for my previous ill tempered comments I would like to offer my services, free of charge, in marking as many as possible for life.

For those that think my comments are unreasonable, or my rhetoric generally a little fierce, I recommend they read The Decline Of An English Village, by Robin Page, published by Quiller Publishing at £18.95. This is the tale of the village of Barton, just outside Cambridge from the standpoint of the author who has lived there all of his life, since his birth in 1943. His gripes and groans very closely mirror my own, concerning the erosion of village life and his sadness for its passing only to be replaced by a brash, tawdry, excuse for planned rurality. Be warned, I am not alone. The truth is out there!

Inappropriately, in this month, exactly fifty years since the eyes of a human being first looked back in awe at the singular beauty of our home planet from another celestial body, I’ve also probably come across as a bit anti green recently. I’m not, far from it, I just question the efficacy of currently proposed measures focused almost entirely on CO2 when humanity contributes so little in percentage terms to this specifically. We do contribute to many other emissions of course which may be far more damaging and fall more realistically within our remit to control, yet we hear very little about these other than having to eat less meat in order to reduce the contributions of methane from flatulent cattle. In that instance I must agree that there is an immense amount of bovine excrement out there at present which is certainly generating a load of hot air.

Deforestation is a huge issue, which seems to have been somewhat sidelined of late, not only for its impact on climate change but on grounds of habitat loss affecting a myriad species other than mankind. In The Amazon, far from being better protected these days, as we might expect, its destruction is accelerating and we are currently losing an area equivalent to a football pitch every single minute.

We are becoming ever more reliant on palm oil, which is a major factor in the desecration of our rain forests and seems to feature in virtually everything on our supermarket shelves these days. Of course it is all too easy for us, as relatively affluent westerners, to become judgemental of those who are exploiting this as a way out of poverty, but it does illustrate just one aspect of mans suicidal impact on our planet and not only from the perspective of climate problems. Rainforest is the richest habitat on Earth. We are only just realising its true value for potential new pharmaceuticals etc. Trash this and we may also be sacrificing a plethora of future miracle drugs in the process.

We’ve also suddenly woken up to the horrors of our immortal plastic waste, with a blob the size of France swirling round The North Pacific Gyre alone. Its rise to pre-eminence roughly coincides with my own lifetime, although I deny direct responsibilty. In my youth we had paper bags and reusable, standardised glass bottles, now long gone. Recycling as against reusing is no answer as most products will only recycle a few times at best before heading for the tip. The problem must be tackled from the front end. Plastic is great for long-term, high quality, durability but is the kiss of death when used for disposable items. Stop producing these, stop just paying it lip-service and find alternatives, we had them sixty years ago.

I still believe that we are feebly trying to address the side effects of the real and obvious problem, as the most enormous and fastest growing elephant of all time occupies, seemingly unnoticed, ever more of our tiny room. The population of Gutless Britain grew by 400,000 in 2018 alone, requiring an extra city the size of Coventry to house them this and every year going forward, while more than 1,500,000 extra souls are added to the World’s population each and every week. Elephants will never go away just because we continue to ignore them. To pretend that they do not exist is the solution of frightened children.

Many would probably deem me a filthy old polluter for burning around a ton of smokeless fuel and a ton of logs, every winter to keep warm, the alternative to which, in my locality, is pretty much oil or container gas. Against this I very seldom fly. I have only once ventured abroad, to Corfu in 1982, whereupon, realising that the rest of the world is wholly populated by bouzouki obsessed Nana Mouskouri/Demis Roussos tribute acts, I barricaded myself in our hotel room for a fortnight, to avoid all the breaking plates and interminably irritating line-dancing, and vowed never to leave Britain, gutless or otherwise, ever again. Haven’t since, never will!

Therefore, as a smug, xenophobic, holier than thou, pensioner my annual car mileage is less than 4k per annum, having reduced from around twelve when at work, and I feel even less guilt for my foul contributions when I consider what the air travel, to which I shall never contribute again, is putting out there.

I was interested to see a news report on the potential for electric aero engines (still no one questions where all the extra electricity is going to come from) the other day. Apparently the most efficient new fossil fuel powered versions each burn around a ton every hour, while the best electric engines currently available need the energy from two hundred and fifty tons of fossil fuel an hour each. Seems unrealistically enormous but presumably this derives from recharging etc.

I feel greener already, especially when I hear, not only of a potential new runway for Heathrow but that air travel is set to double overall in the next twenty years, necessitating an increase in the size of Stanstead to rival Gatwick (which even as I write is starting to press for another runway) and The London City Airport expanding by 30%. It all rather puts my single ton of coal into perspective.

In my youth I remember a run of hot sunny days, often attended by ‘heat haze’, was simply called ‘a lovely summer’. Now its’ become a ‘climate emergency’ and ‘photochemical smog’. June has always been hailed as ‘Flaming June’, at least as far back as my great grandparents days, presumably because back in the old days we needed a blazing fire in the grate to ward off the bitter cold of mid-summer?

Back in those distant days, in common with the youth of today and I suspect the youth of any generation, we had very little cash to fund our entertainment. We were no angels but amused ourselves in many different and imaginative ways other than slaughtering our contempories or taking noxious substances to obliterate the reality of our poverty. So just what has gone so horribly wrong? Can no one channel the energy of youth into something positive, I’m sure its a matter of motivation rather than funding.

Personally I have no doubts that the proliferation of drugs and media influence must bear most of the responsibility. An article published in the June issue of British Wildlife Magazine reveals that samples of the freshwater shrimp, Gammarus pulex, (a key species for water quality studies) taken by scientists from King’s College London, in collaboration with The University of Suffolk from five catchment areas and fifteen sites across Suffolk were all found to contain cocaine, a lower level of ketamine, and various other pharmaceuticals as, allegedly, do some of our top politicians and a number of country pubs that I could take you to. What a state we’re in.

Now, about those ‘oh so worrying’ bangs: Not only locally but nationally too, farmers have been struggling to deter/control crows and other avian pest species since Natural England withdrew general licenses, which permitted farmers to shoot them, at short notice, earlier this year. Doubtless some of my critics would happily applaud this, without understanding its implications, one of which is undoubtedly the proliferation of bird scarers such as gas guns.

Some of these licenses have now been reinstated but with strict limitations requiring that farmers must be able to demonstrate that they have first tried other methods of dissuasion such as scarecrows etc, using shooting only as a last resort. To ignore this ruling can result in severe penalties of up to six months imprisonment.

This has all been bought about by a legal challenge to the status quo instigated by a group calling themselves Wild Justice, who boast none other than Chris Packham as their leading light. I normally agree with Mr Packham on most issues, in particular his views on excessive numbers of domestic cats ravaging our songbirds (an estimated slaughter of 55,000,000 annually) and small mammal populations. On this occasion, however, I must beg to differ.

To understand why Chris and I both agree and disagree is to understand what our countryside is at its very core and how it has evolved. The current landscape, which most both love and wish to preserve, is not natural. Virtually all of it has been created over millennia by the actions of mankind. It is effectively a manmade ecosystem that has been hugely interfered with for our own benefit and would quickly revert to oak woodland or, in a few warmer areas, small leafed lime if we were to abandon it, as its whole natural balance was destroyed long ago.

Additional domestic cats are one weighting that will tilt the scales in one direction, while the cessation of control of pest species will tilt them in another. Having interfered we must continue to maintain a new imbalance or the new pseudo-equilibrium would soon be lost.

I am often complemented on my garden which at this time of year absolutely buzzes with life of all kinds. There are masses of flowers, compost heaps, piles of rotten logs, a small pond and all manner of niches for creatures to hide or hibernate in. As a result both its biomass and biodiversity are beyond all natural expectation for such a small plot. There are a myriad species of insects, molluscs and other mini beasts. There are frogs (again at last, thankfully), toads, newts, slow worms, grass snakes, field mice, field and bank voles all in residence while many species of bird either nest within or close at hand and other species such as fox and badger visit occasionally.

The complements usually run along the lines of how nice my well ordered garden looks. I am flattered but in truth, like the wider countryside, this is not true order, it is perpetually maintained disorder requiring constant intervention. True order is a more leisurely, rather scruffier, process as the natural world takes steps to reassert itself via protracted natural succession to achieve the climax flora and fauna appropriate to its location.

In our already unnatural situation abandonment would mean a huge loss of diversity at this stage as only predominately woodland species would survive. Earth’s natural ecosystems such as rainforests, for instance, are an altogether different ballgame. This is, or was until recently, a near pristine wilderness and here man’s intervention is creating something massively less diverse within the richest habitat on the planet.

Managed tree felling for timber is one issue but much is simply cleared, and wasted, to provide space for agriculture. The saddest thing of all is that this is fleeting, providing only one or two cropping seasons, as the underlying soil here is extremely poor and very quickly becomes either eroded or exhausted of all nutrients. Therefore, cleared plots are very soon abandoned and another felled to provide a brief rash of crops before it is once again necessary to move on. This is where our weather is made. These are the lungs of our planet, lose them and we really are in trouble.

Speaking of trees, on the fifth of the month my son took me to The Goodwood Festival Of Speed as a Father’s Day treat. The first thing that struck me was on the way in. They still have huge elm trees there (more about which next month) and I spotted a marbled white (butterfly) in the car-park, so typical of the surrounding chalk downland. Beyond that this could not, however, be construed as a green or carbon neutral event. The roar of the motorcar was everywhere, proclaiming its dominance, but just here and there were quieter versions. Like timid interlopers at the dawn of mammals, cautiously declaring their intention among an army of dinosaurs. Whether they are practical for everyday usage or not remains to be proven but electric cars are, without doubt, now beginning to make their presence felt at the highest levels of motor sport.

Indeed, here, the premier event, the hill climb, was won by an electric vehicle and yet even so there is a problem. They are probably exciting to drive and are undeniably quick but they are also nigh on silent and that is so boring to watch. However fast a shoosh they produce it will never replace the shiver in the entrails delivered by the scream of a filthy great V12. We may be heading towards a greener world but, be warned, it looks like being as dull as ditch water.

Time To Tighten Our Belts?

Noticed on the twelfth that we have a chiffchaff nesting in my pile of old rotten logs at the bottom of our garden, which was nice to see. On the fourteenth we had five magpies feasting on ants from our old ants nest. Less endearing but part of nature all the same.

Like anyone else I normally dissuade ants but these are a colony of the yellow meadow species, Lasius flavus. In my time as head warden at Cowden Pound Pastures and being familiar with another reserve called Hoe Rough, in Norfolk, I was always told that mounds comparable with mine in size (about eighteen inches in height) were of immense age, in some cases up to two thousand years old, yet I know mine to have been founded little more than ten years ago. Make of it what you will.

For whatever reasons our green belts are disappearing. Manchester has now lost over 34% of its green girdle, Wolverhampton and Blackpool 25% and Cambridge 16.5%. Not all has been buried beneath housing, much has been sacrificed to industry and transport.

London’s Metropolitan Green Belt was the first to be established, in the 1930’s, and in total they together account for 12.5% of England’s total land area, while figures from The Department For Housing And Local Government reveal that in the year to April 2018, 2% of all new housing was built on ‘so called’ protected land.

Protected is then a mute point. In my locality, which is also designated An Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a sure sign of imminent change, following the arrival of a newcomer, is the erection of solid, impenetrable, gates which the old locals have rather uncharitably christened ‘f— off gates’. These are clearly intended to dissuade prying eyes and also serve to kill any sense of community stone dead.

This introductory phase is quickly followed by a succession of planning applications designed to remove any feeling of rurality so hated by the new incumbent. These generally begin with something either worthy but ridiculous or utterly horrendous. Initially they are usually refused. The obvious intention being to so distress the older locals that the next application for something even halfway plausible will bring a sigh of relief, resistance fades and permission is generally granted. The psychology is weak and simple but sadly seems to work every time.

It very quickly becomes apparent that the protection afforded by the designation ‘Green Belt’ or ‘AONB’ is in fact about as much use as a one legged man at an arse kicking party. True, development within these designations can only be permitted under ‘very special circumstances’ the problem is that almost anything is being represented to fulfil this criterion these days and hence a very large, ‘very special’, coach and horses is being driven roughshod over much of our supposedly best protected countryside.

On the 18th I received an email from a local association, of which I have not been a member for some time, the reason for which should become immediately apparent. This sought to calm the local populace over concerns about gunfire heard in the vicinity of the station, which turned out to be a gas operated bird scarer. In my opinion a perfectly valid sound of the countryside, as indeed is a shotgun being discharged. They have now struck me from their email contacts list for expressing such contrary views.

I’m sure they are all decent well meaning folk but I fear they have become more of an entertainment committee than guardians of our local countryside and really should consider changing their title for the sake of accuracy.

Now, were we resident in Croydon or some other London borough I would share their cause for concern but here such sounds, or someone walking past the front window with a gun over their shoulder, has always been an everyday occurrence. Just another example of how local opinion has shifted in recent times with the influx from beyond the hills possessed of more genteel, town reared expectations, that they are now determined to impose on the rest of us us.

Conversely they seem quite content to suffer music festivals, glaringly lit houses, triathlons and associated events, fireworks like its November 5th every weekend and the hoards of abusive, litter flinging, cyclists that now afflict us. They are happy to live in what is rapidly becoming little more than a theme park yet complain about some poor sod trying to protect his crops. If we don’t nip this in the bud right now we’ll have bloody farmers smothering the place in agriculture before you know it! Sadly, the paradise that I once knew and revered is well and truly lost.

My only desire has always been to be simply left in peace to enjoy our countryside as we did for the first twenty odd years of our residence here and all of my complaints are, and always have been, related to the wanton despoiling of our, admittedly privileged, environment. Under no circumstances will I ever become a turkey voting for Christmas but I am weary of the continual fray. Thus my only remaining ambition is to see Hever and the entirety of South East England disappearing in my rear view mirror forever, if only I can find an alternative idyll to that which once surrounded us here, where I may be allowed to live out my remaining time in harmony, surrounded by likeminded countryfolk.

My wife’s solution, however, is a tad at odds with my own preparation to depart. For her the answer has been to spend a sum of money more compatible with that attending China’s space programme on installing a new kitchen, presumably to leave behind for the next owner, who will doubtless have ambitions to convert it into a crack den, discotheque, rustic brothel or something similarly appropriate to its surroundings, within days of moving in.

Of course in these circumstances you very much tend to get what you pay for, or so I’m told. Thus, having rendered ourselves destitute, robbed several local banks and sold our bodies to science to fund this project, guaranteed to leave The Taj Mahal looking like a derelict prefab by comparison, I was somewhat taken aback when, with the old units ripped out and committed to the skip, which failed to arrive at the first attempt, the plasterer, having prepped and masked off everything, coyly enquired if I had any plaster?

Now, as everyone is by now aware, I am warm and outgoing by nature with an easygoing disposition, a wholly forgiving individual, fully appreciative of the views of others, tolerant to a fault and ever keen to move with the times. I am especially embracing of local development and modern technology as it continually evolves. Yet even I was a little miffed at this minor shortcoming. Or had I not, perhaps, understood the term ‘plasterer’ in the fulness of its complexity?

My next door neighbour is a cabdriver and always takes a vehicle with him when going to work, rather than walking and relying on being able to borrow one when he eventually gets to a customer. Indeed the electrician was so well organised as to bring some wire along when he arrived, although he did forget to fix the new oven to the wall, but perhaps I had failed to grasp the magnitude of the event entirely. A carpenter last time, a plasterer this? It began to dawn on me. The late skip! My wife bellowing down the phone, “For Christ’s sake, where’s our *+”$!<^ skip”. Did she know something that I didn’t? Was it all preordained?

It began to make sense. Our second ever new kitchen coinciding with the second coming! Like our Lord at the feeding of the five thousand, if I were to provide him with the remnants of a packet of Polyfilla from the shed would he be able to make a start and miraculously produce plaster sufficient, not only to finish the kitchen walls but cover the entire parish to a depth of several feet? Was this a profound test of my faith? Alternatively, was he just an incompetent tit!?

As you were. Suffice it to say that no miracles took place. John The Baptist failed to arrive in a fully stacked Jewson’s van at the last minute and an entire day was wasted. Thus our life of kitchenless purgatory was extended by twenty four hours. No longer relying on either our, or God’s, infinite mercy he did, however, turn up with bags of real plaster the next day and actually did a bloody good job.

Despite the tiler buggering off to Thailand (Tile Land would have been fine)and the floorer poking a hole in the new floor and forgetting to lay any at all in the airing cupboard, whinges about our suffering and depravation evaporated on the sixth as thoughts turned to the courage and depravation endured by those involved in The Normandy Landings seventy five years previously. I’m sure that each generation is becoming less resilient than the last and have no doubts that I could never have done what they did. Being the age I am I have had the privilege of knowing many vets’ from both world wars and all have had one thing in common, they never talked or bragged about their experiences.

On this anniversary I was down at my mother’s and went to get some fish and chips with her neighbour Fred, with whom I have become good friends over the years. Fred is now ninety three with a mind as sharp as any razor. He was at both Dunkirk and the D-day landings, is still incredibly active, and has an interest in virtually everything. Yet when asked he always says he didn’t do much in the war other than cruise around on his ship, the river class cruiser HMS Deveron, keeping an eye on, first the Germans, then the Japanese in the Pacific conflagration. On this occasion, however, I did get him chatting about exactly what he was upto seventy five years ago on this day of days.

It transpires that during the greatest military action in the history of humanity he was engaged in anti submarine manoeuvres, steaming up and down, parallel to the invasion beaches chucking depth charges off the back of the ship as all hell broke loose around them. All was going just fine until they were required to go in really close to pick up some of the wounded and a couple of war correspondents. At this point the propeller snagged a cable and everything ground to a halt. Thus Fred and the ship’s diver were required to go over the side in a dinghy, with the mutilated corpses of slaughtered soldiers floating all around, armed only with a pair of pliers, to free things up before one of the U-boats caught their ship at a standstill and took them out with a torpedo.

Fortunately they were quickly successful and got underway again before disaster struck. He did concede that the Stukas were a bit irritating, with their screaming sirens as they continually rained bombs and machine gun fire from above, but, of course, he didn’t do much in the war. Nevertheless, I fancy we all owe him and his ilk rather more than the odd helping of fish and chips!

Much has recently been made of the fact that no specific memorial exists to those who fell on that day now so long ago. This is indeed a sad state of affairs which is, at last, to be rectified. Yet I wonder if it hasn’t been there all along. These were ordinary, modest, folk, who, like Fred, would only make light of their sacrifice. Perhaps they are already better commemorated with a little plagiarism of the plaque on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, in the bowels of St Pauls Cathedral; “If you seek their memorial, look about you”.

Nut House Alert!

Unusually, I felt that I had to issue a brief interim post as our wonderous government has now announced that it intends to commit us to zero CO2 emissions by 2050. This will be backed by legislation to ensure that we all comply. If they seriously mean this I must assume that they will include breathing out, which will doubtless become a crime punishable either with a prison sentence or a heavy fine unless we exhale into some kind of capture device that may later be safely discharged into subterraneous sedimentary rock.

All houses are to be insulated and all fossil fuels phased out, which presumably means that older properties, like mine, will necessarily be encased in wood wool, or similar, as with my solid walls and all plastics now a no no, polystyrene foam will no longer be an option. This will presumably be topped with an abundance of solar panels. Such an aesthetic triumph over the old roses round the door look, while oil or gas fired central heating boilers are to be replaced by hydrogen fueled alternatives.

All focus appears to be on CO2, mention is seldom made of the other greenhouse gases, some of which are far more damaging, such as methane, water vapour, ozone etc. Of these, water vapour is the most potent while methane has thirty times the effect of CO2. Hence farting in the bath will shortly become a capital offence.

Hydrogen is produced commercially by reacting natural gas with steam. this also produces carbon monoxide and a small amount of CO2; please note the highlights. The other method is by the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen also has a certain track record with exploding airships in times gone by.

We are entreated to eat less meat and to fly less, although an extra runway is to be built at Heathrow as it is, so they tell us, essential to our future economy, and petrol or diesel vehicles will no longer be produced after 2030. I can only assume that the extra runway will generate revenue as an upmarket skatepark or cycleway but this is not made clear.

No mention either as to exactly how the massive amounts of extra electricity/energy needed to fuel our vehicles, heat our homes or produce the hydrogen (by either steam reaction or electrolysis) is to be generated. Neither is there any talk about how the millions of heavy duty batteries, requiring the mining of ever more nickel, manganese and cobalt etc that will be necessary are to be both manufactured and, eventually, recycled in our green new world. Already concerns have been expressed as to where we shall find the thousands upon thousands of skilled operatives needed to make all of these changes to both our homes and the wider community, not to mention the estimated one trillion pounds of investment that will be needed to deliver this vision of Utopia.

The unimaginable upheaval necessary to eradicate the one three hundredth of one percent that GB (remember, the G now stands for gutless not great) contributes to humanity’s 3.5% total will be reviewed after five years to see how much of the rest of the world has followed our example. I imagine that at this point we shall say “Oh sod it”, and desperately endeavour to salvage the remnants of our economy.

Things Are Warming Up.

Spotted a pair of red kite being mobbed by a single crow on May 3rd. They lingered for a while before drifting off to the north west. Still not common in these parts but more so than they used to be a few years back.

I’ve been watching bullfinch’s in a friends garden a few doors down since around the 5th. What a stunning bird they are, crisp, elegant and brilliant. Front on they wouldn’t look out of place in the tropics but this is a rare view. The usual perspective is of an apparently black bird with a distinctive white rump rapidly flying away.

For the first time in several years we heard a cuckoo loud and clear on the 12th (again on 25th). Once the definitive sound of summer from April through to the end of June it has become a rarity. So sad. Not heard a nightingale for years. What next I wonder?

Had a grass-snake in my garden pond on the 14th. Would rather have my newts and frogs as they are of more benefit on the pest control front but won’t interfere. I can’t catch the perisher anyway so must just accept nature red in tooth and claw I suppose.

Walking home from a friends house on 24th at around 9.30pm I was amazed by the number of bats whizzing up and down our lane. Frogs and bats making a comeback? Something at least to be optimistic about.

On the 19th I was out in my garden when I heard the song of a very rare bird indeed. In actual fact I think the hairs on the back of my neck stood up before I even heard it. The unmistakeable rumble of a Merlin, not the small raptor but the Rolls Royce aero engine. “Spitfire”, I shouted to the wife. “Can’t see one”, she replied. With that it appeared out of the low cloud, waggled its wings as it roared overhead, and disappeared, heading south, out of Biggin Hill no doubt. A ghost from our finest hour. What would the guys that flew those iconic machines in anger make of our current, pathetic, situation I wonder?

It says something of the state of British politics today that no one could even be bothered to contest our local elections. Our polls were cancelled and the present incumbent will continue as our District Councillor for another term. Fortunately he does a damn good job for us but it would be all the same if he didn’t.

The Government Committee on Climate Change now tells us that we must all make the following efforts to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: Set all central heating thermostats to no more than 19c, eat 20% less meat and dairy, avoid flying, walk, cycle or take the bus or train rather than driving, stop using all fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal, build 7500 offshore wind farms (currently 1900 extant), plant millions of trees, replace all domestic boilers with ground heat pumps, petrol and diesel vehicles to be banned for sale by 2030, power HGV’s with hydrogen, gas power stations to be replaced by hydrogen ones. All this will cost around £40 billion pa, which is said to be no more than the current target of an 80% reduction. In addition carbon dioxide storage technology will be needed to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere on a huge scale.

I would love to believe that we can create a greener planet and have worked for much of my life struggling towards that end, but solutions must be both effective and realistic. Only five years ago the government issued an edict that the elderly must maintain their homes at no less than 21c in order to avoid hypothermia and we should all drive less polluting diesel vehicles. Where are we with that now?

How are we going to generate sufficient electricity when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine? How will we produce all of the hydrogen? Electrolysis of water? How shall we generate the massive volume of extra electricity required, both for this and to charge up all of our electric vehicles? Why, in our current circumstances, do we continue to invent or duplicate wholly unnecessary electronic gizmos, most of which appear to serve no purpose other than to fry our children’s brains to the point where they don’t know if they’re boys, girls or a bacon sandwich? Is it all about boosting Prozac sales perhaps?

Another thought is that not only do electric vehicles take hours to recharge, what about all of the cables? Fine for those with their own driveways but what of the majority who don’t and, particularly, those who live in flats etc? Our streets will come to resemble giant cobwebs! It might of course serve in part to remedy the one overriding problem of overpopulation as thousands will undoubtedly trip and break their necks or throttle themselves as they go about their daily business. Dedicated charging points, installed in huge numbers at vast cost, are not an option as many can no longer even park anywhere close to where they live, although I expect that they may be permitted to in future, for a substantial fee.

Scaremongers are now even promoting the idea that some of us might succumb to malaria if our climate should warm further. But hold on just a moment, didn’t Oliver Cromwell die of just this disease bloody donkey’s years ago? It was known as the ague back then and was still endemic in The North Kent Marshes right up until 1910. Is there nothing new under the sun? Probably not, but, like so much else, old fears can always be recycled, in line with government policy!

Who I wonder is going to fund all of these marvelous reforms, together with the massive expenses that every individual household will incur if we are genuinely going to comply with all of the inevitable legislation that will attend this political protection racket?

In almost the same breath, on the same day as the above government committee’s recommendations were published, we heard that a campaign to block a third runway at Heathrow has been rejected, despite the impact on local residents and the minor fact that if it goes ahead it will generate an extra 250,000 flights every year. For those concerned, apparently each individual enjoying a return transatlantic flight indirectly generates an extra ton of CO2 every trip. That is, it seems, unless you’re a famous actress or are making documentaries about climate change, in which case its absolutely fine to do so.

Even worse, in perhaps the most blatant act of hypocrisy in the entire history of mankind’s already exceptional hunger for hypocrisy, it has now been proposed that all older vehicles accessing Heathrow are to be charged £15 to mitigate the extra pollution that they produce. Really?!!

Has our glorious pretend government perhaps got a crossed wire somewhere, or more realistically, as I suspect, are they completely bleeding nuts? What on Earth are the rest of us scrimping for when they behave like this. The lunatics are now firmly in control of the asylum.

Of course countries are no longer governed by politicians but by cartels of big businesses, interested only in ever increasing profits. Consider for a moment who will gain most from providing everything to replace that which we already have, much of which we have been instructed to buy as responsible citizens, but which is now being vilified from all angles by the same powers that haven’t given a damn for decades, until they saw a buck or several hundred billion in it.

Should growth so much as stall, never mind go into reverse, there is total worldwide panic. Capitalism relies wholly on continued expansion, which is why there will never be any debate concerning population reduction or control, let alone meaningful action on that particular issue. The system needs ever more of us to function which ultimately means bugger the planet, whatever the popular outpourings at present.

Now don’t get the idea that I’m some sort of Socialist. This system is also damned by human nature and is similarly doomed to fail, except that we get to enjoy a prolonged period of abject poverty first. We need a new ideology where effort is rewarded and the genuinely vulnerable are protected but which recognises that we must be content to limit ourselves within certain sustainable parameters. Here in Britain, at least, I don’t think anyone has become genuinely happier since the sixties, we just have loads more junk and got fat. Most of what we now crave as essential simply did not exist back then. We have been taught to need it by the media as and when it was invented. I’m just a slow learner.

Meaningful reform will, therefore, never happen and with over a million species, other than us, now endangered, Mother Earth, Gaia will simply do what she always has and wipe her face, leaving continued evolution to produce a new, hopefully less stupid, life form to dominate for a while.

There are other aspects to this: The developed nations have grown rich by raping the planet and burning fossil fuels. We have defended our wealth and domination by the threat of our nuclear arsenals. Now, when poorer countries seek to emulate our achievements, we say no! How dare you? On both counts.

As recently as the seventies the worry was that we were slipping into another ice age. There have been at least five in Earths history, hundreds according to some, and in truth we are still emerging from the last, the definition of which is that there is any year round ice at the poles. We are just enjoying a warm interglacial period which has lasted for the last 11,000 years. Now don’t for a minute think that I’m saying that climate change isn’t real. Our planet’s weather is in a constant state of flux and always has been which is why it is so difficult to determine whether current patterns are part of the natural rhythm or due to our actions. CO2 levels are indeed currently at their highest level for three million years but have been far higher in earlier prehistoric times as have sea levels, which were 300 feet above those of today in the time of the dinosaurs.

Another thought is that if we are now so concerned about conserving energy, why does every city in the world insist on leaving all the office lights on at night? That aside has any research been done as to the actual warming effect of these, heat from the engines of our vehicles, industrial processes, our homes, almost eight billion human bodies etc. All generate heat in their own right, and have also increased exponentially since the advent of the industrial revolution. Is this a valid question, or is this input negligible on a global scale against that from our sun trapped by greenhouse gasses?

Last year our atmosphere reached over 400 parts per million. At a point about 16 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs it stood at somewhere around 3,500 parts per million. Quite what caused this peak is uncertain, possibly a huge amount of volcanic activity, but it sure as hell wasn’t us! Daily temperatures in the artic circle rose to average those that we in Britain enjoy today in a good summer. The arrangement of our continents at that time, together with high rainfall, produced a situation whereby low density nutrient rich fresh water overlaid the denser salty sea beneath.

These conditions were just perfect for the water fern Azolla, which as I well know from my battles with it as an invasive wetland alien grows like the clappers. With little in the way of competition it did just that for around a million years absorbing CO2 on such a scale that levels fell to around 650 parts per million over that period, since when average temperatures have been falling ever since until the current period of warming. These cooler conditions suited the spread of vast areas of grassland and with it the evolution of a plains living ape with a penchant for bipedal progression which freed up its front limbs to develop an opposable thumb for grasping and ever more grasping and grasping and grasping—————.

As the Earth once again cooled, allowing ice to form at the poles, the fern died and sank to the salty depths of the ocean where lack of oxygen prevented proper decomposition. As sediment settled on top over the intervening eons of time this organic residue is thought to have been compressed into massive deposits of oil and natural gas. As the polar ice again retreats with our current period of warming many of our more developed nations have begun exploiting the situation in preparing to stake their claims, in what I thought they had all long agreed should be preserved as pristine wilderness, with a view to exploiting the vast reservoirs beneath. Quite why I cannot begin to imagine as we are now all totally committed to a fossil fuel free future. Aren’t we?

What is certain is that on a geological time scale fifty years is the twinkling of an eye. That we are a disgusting, selfish species, fully deserving of our undoubted forthcoming extinction is also beyond argument and it would certainly do no harm for us to clean up our act on many fronts. I am less sure about some of the most recently muted ideas to cool us down such as putting huge numbers of reflecting umbrellas into orbit over our poles to reflect sunlight back into space. Supposing our current warming is no more than a glitch. If the Earth were to cool again could they be recaptured or closed down or is the potential there for us to be catapulted into an accelerated ice age? Anyone heard of Snowball Earth, AKA The Cryogenic era?

There are many greenhouse gasses that potentially have input into global warming but as I understand it, the vast majority of CO2 (around 97%), which seems to be the current focus, is produced naturally by the gaseous exchange of our oceans, respiration of plants and animals and the action of bacteria breaking down organic material in our soil. Volcanos, of which around 30 are erupting across the globe at any one time, also have some input.

It now appears that Climate Change is to become part of the national curriculum. Fine if it is honest and balanced, covering every aspect of the subject, but I have a dreadful feeling that it will amount, like the declared intent to feature the subject in every aspect of TV drama, to little more than the attempted brainwashing of a generation if as I suspect it is hugely biased toward human input of CO2 alone.

If the 3 – 3.5% for which mankind is responsible is expressed as 100% Britain only generates 1.5% of that total. On that basis GB is responsible for approximately three hundredths of one percent of the planets total CO2 production year on year and even if we do cut our contribution to zero this in isolation will have no overall effect whatsoever.

Three massive new wind farms are proposed off the Norfolk coast to destroy the view and any sense of remote beauty completely. Meanwhile China alone is currently commissioning a new coal fired power station every four days.

The Welsh are well renowned for their close affinity to sheep, now it seems that due to this they can never meet the 2050 net zero CO2 target while their 9.5 million national flock and their emissions remain. We have been told to eat less meat and it seems we shall soon no longer need their fleeces to keep warm either.

Gone Fishing.

Green ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protesters bring London to a standstill, with the best of intentions but no apparent idea as to what they propose as realistic alternatives to our current situation. We are warned that we face a gloomy future if we do not become ever more frugal with our water consumption and none other than Sir David Attenborough again warns that we face Armageddon if we do not address climate change. At risk of becoming a bore let me yet again state the blindingly bloody obvious. We must, however painful it may now be, reduce our population over a relatively short timescale or face extinction as a species. However unpalatable, there is no other truth, inconvenient or otherwise, and no amount of rebellion is going to change that.

March went out like a lamb (much like British democracy and any prospect of a divorce from The EU during my lifetime) only for temperatures to fall again and beckon in April with a week punctuated by a rash of showers and snow a little further north before giving way to a wonderful Easter. My neighbour heard a cuckoo on the 19th and Good Friday was very warm, up to 24c, with brimstone, peacock, common blue, orange tip and small tortoiseshell butterflies all on the wing and raven once more putting in an appearance.

My garden pond is alive with newts and a good number of yearling frogs which I must assume are the survivors from the transplanted stock of tadpoles from my friend across the road that I thought might have perished with the attention of visiting grass- snakes last year. Spring has well and truly sprung. Oak is again in leaf before ash, which is said to predict a good summer. It worked last year.

The RSPB gets a lot of flack these days for favouring raptors over song birds but I fancy, certainly in our locality, that domestic cats are far more to blame for their demise, it is estimated that they account for upwards of 27,000,000 nationally. We gave up our bird table several years ago as it became obvious that we were providing more nutrition for moggies than anything avian. Our dawn chorus in spring is a poor shadow of its former self these days but in all honesty I cannot blame our healthy population of buzzards. After all they are predominately scavengers and not nimble enough by far to have any noticeable impact. Sparrowhawks are, of course, a different ball game but these remain far too scarce to take a significant toll.

With all the nostalgia and reminiscing triggered by my reunions with workmates from the 60’s and 70’s and two trips to central London underlining my reasons for moving to the countryside, I’ve also just realised that you no longer see street dogs these days. Like kids of that era prior to the nanny state, PC and all of our neurotic modern nonsense, they were turned out in the mornings and left to their own devices until evening/feeding time. The last that I knew in this locality were Basil who died a few years back, a highly intelligent wasted talent, always up for a game, who would have made an excellent drug detection dog. The other was Barny who died in the same week as the hurricane of 1987. He had life totally sorted and attended every one of our barbeques for the first four years of our residence. He would even hop on a bus to the next village if there was nothing doing locally and catch the last one home in the evening.

Harping back to my previous life, post my metallurgical days, it says something of the way things were back then that, having decided to leave the metal factors with whom I began my working life back in 1969, I applied for two positions advertised in The Evening News one week and went for interviews for both the next, on the same day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I was duly offered both, one in the stock exchange, the other in the laboratories of the then Metropolitan Water Board. One position paid a fraction of the other so I naturally chose the lesser and duly began a seven year stint in the virology lab at New River Head in Islington. I picked the lower paid job as at that time I saw science as my vocation despite, in reality, probably being just about as well suited as Gary Glitter teaching in a primary school.

On arrival at the bus stop outside the complex of laboratories and offices the conductor would invariably shout “Waterboard, home of rest!” and therein lies the real reason behind why I stayed for so long. We were overstaffed by a factor of at least four and treated the place as asocial club.

We had three labs on separate floors, chemical on top, bacteriological in the middle and us, virology, in the basement. I won’t dwell on the analytical methods but a typical days work (total for the unit that is, not per individual) would involve stripping a 20oz bottle of cells and diluting them with the appropriate media. This was then dispensed to fifty 4oz medical flat bottles. After growing on for a day or so these were inoculated with the suspect water sample and over-laid with a mixture of nutrient agar and a neutral stain. These were then placed in our incubator for a day or so before removing to count the viruses which showed as clear patches or ‘plaques’ in the pink background. The viruses could then be ‘typed’ if desired by taking several plugs from a clear patch and placing them in separate bottles of cultured cells. Each was then inoculated against a different virus and the bottle of cells that survived revealed the type of virus present and that’s basically it. No great cranial content required.

There were six of us to do this, plus two ladies employed just to wash and sterilise our glassware, hence, even with a two hour plus lunch break and a couple of half hour tea breaks, we struggled to fill our days and got up to all manner of pranks, some of which might still end in a prison sentence if I reveal too much. What always amused me was the way in which sterile technique was absolutely sacrosanct. White coats, face masks and rubber gloves were worn at all times while working. Pipets etc were carefully flamed during dispensation before dropping into a hypochlorite solution for safety and all glass work surfaces wiped with methylated spirit between processes, then at lunchtime we would all get our sandwiches out, put our feet up, and munch contentedly away in the same room. Ah well, nobody died.

During my time there I actually did a great deal of the preliminary testing of our own, then nascent, Bough Beech reservoir at various stages of its development. Trips out, to collect special water samples or conduct research in the field, both there and in general, were conducted in one of the boards fleet of 3.5 litre Rover Coupes, each finished in a lovely British Racing Green and replete with uniformed chauffeur. We were not happy bunnies if we found these all booked out, in which instance we were expected to take either an Austin Princess, 2 litre Rover or 3 litre Ford Granada and drive ourselves. The indignity! The hardship!

This was the era when fish farming was starting to take off and eventually I gravitated to working on fish diseases. In those days this form of husbandry was in its infancy and pretty much meant solely rainbow trout. The scourge back then was summed up in two diseases affecting mostly salmonids (Salmon family if you like, fish with a small fleshy fin between the dorsal and caudal fin known as the adipose) called infectious pancreatic necrosis which is viral and ulcerative dermal necrosis which I believe remains idiopathic to this day despite considerable research. The work also involved fungal, bacterial and parasitic problems as well of course.

The water board had a few farms of their own but I also traveled all over Southern England, as far afield as Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire to collect specimens as well as monitoring wild populations of cyprinids (Carp family) by taking fishing trips to rivers, lakes etc to catch my own specimens before returning to the labs to conduct the appropriate tests. All this, of course, fascilitated by chauffeured travel. Mention of this is not, I must emphasise, meant as an attempt to put on airs and graces as most members of staff were afforded the same privileges back then, it was, after all, only public money!

Things began to change with the advent of Thames Water Authority. We were soon expected to work for our living. No longer just a haven where one could recover from the previous nights debauchery or mince around in flash cars. My chauffeured ride was replaced with a Ford Escort van. It was fitted out with all that I needed, including aerated tanks and various other appropriate gizmos but it was still——- a van, and I was expected to drive it myself.

Time to leave! I had long fostered ambitions to work for myself and had a few ideas of my own, besides I had lingered long enough and was in danger of becoming institutionalised. Thus was born ‘Graffiti Removal Ltd’. No one was addressing this growing problem back then and with several well stocked laboratories at my disposal my death throws as a scientist were filled with experiment in finding the correct reagents and solvents to remove all manner of paint, ink etc from almost any surface you may care to think of.

I had by then bought a flat and had also noticed that our maintenance man was quietly making a good few bob. With blocks of flats springing up everywhere I, and my then business partner, decided it was worth a punt to chuck a few leaflets out in that direction as well.

Incidentally, a few months after leaving my old employ I heard on the grapevine that my successor had been arrested and lost his job. He had been caught selling rainbow trout from a van in Essex Road Market, a stones throw from the labs. I fancy that where he went wrong was that the van in question was emblazoned with the logo and title ‘Thames Water Authority’. Please note: Scientists can be stupid too!

Now in basic terms there are two types of business, USO’s (unique selling opportunities) i.e. new and original start ups and Me Too’s, tried and tested ideas with proven demand. We did OK with the graffiti thing, dealing mainly with local councils, cleaning and proofing whole borough’s road signs, multi storey car-parks and various other surfaces. We also developed means of removal from Perspex without solvent damage and came close to securing a contract with the GPO for cleaning up phone boxes. It was, however, an uphill struggle, as being unique at the time and novices in business, we always struggled to prove and sell the idea, whereas the flat thing took off like a rocket. In offering a contract combining cleaning of communal parts and gardening together we were, somewhat amazingly, ahead of the field who at that time in general offered either or but seldom both services.

Innovation can never have been easier. Starting from scratch, with little idea of what we were doing, within six months of leaving the waterboard I had tripled my income and after a year we were employing pay-rolled staff and running four fully equipped vans. This was too easy, it sold itself and quickly displaced any ambition regarding the graffiti idea.

Ultimately, rows with my partner (I know. Very out of character) and difficulties with employees led to part of the business being sold off to a third party. We went our own ways and I was at last free to move to the countryside and become the bum I had always wanted to be.

Now it is a strange quirk of the British persona that they hate to see anyone making a good living from a menial job, no matter how hard they work or that they would never dream of doing it themselves. In this instance it was very much a case of many hands making light work, or more accurately, more residents paying lots of dosh i.e. block of twelve flats, each unit happy to pay ten quid a week for all their communal cleaning and gardening, which with all the correct kit took around an hour and a half. In winter, however, the rates remained the same, while the work would take only around twenty minutes.

I never did the door to door collection nonsense of course, being paid monthly by account via The Residents Association or a Managing Agent, neither did I ever—–Ever—–mention an hourly rate. Always quote job and finish or you’ll terrify the natives. Hence, as I was now making an extremely healthy income, it was necessary to keep my customers happy and secure in their sense of superiority by fabricating my long time image of poverty and stupidity which came so naturally and has served me well for so many years. Having people believe you to be either stupid or weak gives you huge advantages over them and, of course, a massive element of surprise when they eventually realise you’re not and they are!

Thus having found my true station in life I at last became happy, wallowing in filth and spending my spare time working for free in nature conservation until ever more red tape and bull—- such as ever more ‘elf and safety regulations meant it was time to retire. The final straw came when almost everyone I worked for began to ask for my written statement in this regard. “Nut down, steam in”, was my standard response, an attitude which had served me well for over a third of a century without incident but now quickly revealed a certain humour deficit in the modern work environment.

It was time to retire. Here too I was blessed, as an early neighbour in the flats had bullied me into taking out what turned out be an excellent pension scheme, early doors, with guaranteed growth and annuity entitlement, all pegged to the rates available back in those halcyon times when 10% was a minimum expectation rather than an unattainable dream.

Four years in, retirement has proved to be far better than any career could ever be. You just sit on your arse while money arrives in your bank account and become a complete burden on society as the younger generation fester with envy and hatred, its bloody marvellous. The only downside, of course, is the proximity of death but you can’t have everything!

Friends Reunited.

Early last month, I met up with my two oldest mates, Steve and Don, both of whom I’ve known since primary school over sixty years ago. This together with another reunion with my old waterboard colleagues, scheduled for the second week in April, has resulted in a double and perhaps excessively wordy helping of this journal in only a little more than my usual monthly ration. It may, together with next months offereing also read a little like an abridged version of my entire life story, for which I apologise profusely.

First, after my startling revelation, last month, that I am possibly not as thick as I appear or completely devoid of pecuniary substance, it may come as just too much of a shock to hear that all we three old pals passed our eleven plus. I was actually such a smart arse that I was on course to take it a year early, at ten, but ultimately I did my final primary school year twice to avoid stress and bring me back on schedule. This burst of cranial superiority has long since passed.

We went on to attend a considerably snotty grammar school together. The same one as attended by a recent grey prime minister. I’ll keep actual names out of it to avoid any embarrassment but suffice it to say that it was originally founded by the Court Embroiderer to Charles II.

I well remember the introductory evening, attended by both parents and offspring, during which the deputy head strutted about the stage vigorously swishing a cane while telling the attentive masses, “If you don’t want your child beaten look for another school”. This was greeted with an uncomfortable shuffling by the new pupils and a happy nodding and winking from the parents, as if to say “Ooh! this must be a good school if they torture the kids”.

In the event we were thrashed for anything and everything, a gym slipper for minor transgressions, delivered with relish by lesser members of staff and the cane for more serious stuff. Only The Head and his deputy were allowed to actually cane us, obviously as a sort of perk of the job. Indeed, The Head’s office was so efficient at maximising violent beatings that a system of traffic lights was installed, outside on the door frame. Red meant ‘wait I’m thrashing someone’, amber was ‘give me a minute while I find my cane’ and green was ‘come in and be thrashed’.

One claim to fame that I enjoy is that the deputy head got to thrash both myself and the prime minister. I was, however, never invited to tea at No10. He also took us for geography and, during one lesson I recall, he was gazing wistfully out of the window and, seemingly lost in the moment, suddenly exclaimed, “In common with my wife, the interior of Senegal is very dry and completely barren”. Well!

While the cane was always far more painful than the slipper, it actually cut my buttocks on one occasion in four places and took several weeks to heal, some masters took the plimsoll to virtual ‘art form’ levels. One even glued lead weights into his personally modified slipper to render extra pain. He had his own book store, known as his ‘little room’ in which he carried out his ministrations.

One would join the queue at lunchtime and take turns to enter and be dealt with. Inside was a ladder back chair and you would be required to kneel on the seat, bend over the top rail and stretch down to grasp the bottom one. He would then run his hand over your backside several times, ostensibly to ensure that they were suitably taut, in order to maximise pain (at least, as an innocent young boy, I assumed that was the reason), before inflicting punishment with a practiced flick of the wrist. Clearly nothing wrong with him either!

Needless to say I absolutely hated the place and determined from the outset that these bastards would teach me nothing. I can proudly confirm that they never did. All that I gained from this establishment was a scarred arse and a sound grounding in violent thuggery.

I suppose one has to keep a sense of perspective on this. It was after all an age when capital punishment was still in place (In France the guillotine was last used as recently as September 10th 1977! Good old EU), an era when violent crime was rarer and stretched necks more common. Homosexuality was still a crime, punishable by imprisonment and/or chemical castration. The love that dare not speak its name was still a few years off seemingly bellowing it from every rooftop.

Fast forward fifty five years: After the obligatory hour in the wilderness, tottering round London Bridge Station phoning each other and trying to recognize the shriveled old gits coming toward us we emerged and found a pub close by Guys Hospital selling single rounds of sausage sandwiches at £8.50 a time. Lured in by this nutritional bargain and, being too idle to walk further, we entered and settled down with a pint.

It is difficult to exaggerate the overwhelming joy that swept over us as we noticed that dead opposite was a door in the wall with a large sign above it reading, ‘The London Sperm Bank’. Naturally, of course, being mature adults of some standing, a retired solicitor with his own practice, a renowned advertising executive and a well known nonentity, we were in no way tempted to make any childish comments regarding the God given opportunity before us.

It took a good half hour or so for the w—-r or t—-r remarks to pass, every time a generously intentioned gentleman entered, or emerged from, the door across the way, only to be replaced by an altogether more sophisticated level of adult wit.

“Get a grip of yourself”, “You need to take yourself in hand” and, “Do you come here often?” to quote but a few examples of our truly Shakespearean level of humour, before we were severely intellectually challenged by two donors arriving together. In the nick of time I was seized with almost divine inspiration, “Go on, pull yourselves together” I shouted, in a state of ecstasy, as the door closed behind them.

The barman must have been impressed with our observational skills as, overhearing our elation, he told us that in all his years behind the bar no one had ever noticed the door across the way or offered similar ribald commentary. Much the same, I fancy, as the legendary Stirling Moss, a name synonymous at the time with anyone driving too fast, whom I regularly saw, in my days working in London, riding his ruby red BSA Tina automatic scooter around the west end, replete with his trusty pith helmet. “Who do you think you are”, I would holler, “Bloody Stirling Moss”? I’m absolutely positive that he had never heard that before, yet he seldom smiled. Clearly oblivious to my gifted originality.

Conversation eventually turned to our days at school, in particular the seniors and our Cadet Corps (CCF) days on the playing fields. Apart from a 0.22 rifle range in the loft we had a fully stocked armoury, field gun and a glider. I well remember kids at primary school occasionally flaunting service revolvers, bayonets etc and a live hand grenade being found in a desk at my cousin’s school. Bought home by doting fathers as souvenirs of the second world war of course, which was then little more than ten years behind us. There was far less illicit weaponry in the seniors as I recall. Here it was positively encouraged and fully legit.

We had dozens of Lee Enfield 303’s, Sten guns, thunder flashes and, of course, a dirty great field gun. Steve was more involved than I, who had quickly mastered the art of forging sick notes. He recalls that we also had a rocket launcher (Bazooka), Bren gun and two heavy machine guns, salvaged from a Spitfire. Can you imagine the furor today if 700 school kids were turned loose with these kind of toys and effectively told to go and have a battle?

Steve remembers once stuffing the bazooka with thunder flashes (cross between a banger and stick of dynamite) and igniting the lot for effect. Effect he certainly got, with the resultant explosion right next to his earhole leaving him deaf for weeks after.

Apart from the time someone shot Reggie Rumbold with a 303, capable of killing at a mile and carrying for three, according to military lore (not with a live round, of course, but these are poky little tools and, at point blank range the wad went well into his shoulder) the highlight of these, three times a year, Field Days was always the launching of the school glider. The highest accolade for those in the RAF section was to be the designated pilot of this primitive aluminium, girder built, flying machine which was devoid of any bodywork and had the overall appearance of a giant flying bicycle with the pilot seated on the handlebars.

The launch was a sight to behold. The kids were divided into two groups. A great stake was driven in to restrain the aircraft while nigh on the whole school’s compliment heaved on the huge elastic band (bungee) required to power take off. The much honored, if very trepidatious, pilot (AKA victim) was then strapped in. The retaining stake was struck out and away she went.

Sadly the result was always the same: Glider lifts off, soars to an altitude of around thirty feet, then nosedives and slams into the ground. The safety belt breaks and the pilot hurtles, crotch first, into the joystick. ‘Joy’ that is, only if you are able to derive pleasure from having both testicles punched clean through the body wall at approximately the same rate of knots as the wad that took out poor Reggie.

The now screaming pilot was then disentangled from the wreckage and rushed off to the local hospital where frantic efforts were invariably made to retrieve the macerated gonads from his armpits and reconstruct the scrotum, thus salvaging some remote prospect of future fatherhood. If only The London Sperm Bank had been open in those days the potential pilots could, perhaps, have opened an account beforehand (afterhand?).

Talk then turned to what we were up to now. Steve has been pretty ill over the past two years but now appears to be fully restored, while I’ve done sod all as usual. Don, however, mentioned, in passing, that he was now in group and was playing The Shepherds Bush Empire that coming weekend. He genuinely made very little of this and clearly needs an urgent modesty downgrade or some degree of ego enhancement.

Back in the days when we were either going on to higher education (unusual back then) or starting our working lives, in the late sixties, virtually everyone was in a group, regardless of talent. Who can forget the fabulous ‘Target’ with whom I played drums for more than a fortnight, on and off? OK that’s everyone except me then.

Our local milkman, however, did fare a little better and became lead guitarist with one of the biggest glam rock bands of the seventies, with a string of No1 hits to their credit. His future wife lived dead opposite us on our council estate and I was quite pally with her younger brother who went on to do even better and now manages many of the top names in the music industry.

Ray, the milkman, still plays guitar for a well known group with their roots in the same era and another ex band member writes for Kylie. The other two have now, sadly, passed away.

The lead singer was a down to earth sort of fella, as indeed were the rest of the band. He was, however, a heavy smoker and a terrible fag bandit, in the days when everyone seemed to smoke, and would regularly burst into my then local quite late after recording Top Of The Pops on a Monday for transmission the following Thursday. There my mate and I would usually be propping up the bar, in an often otherwise empty pub, while lusting after Barbara the unattainable barmaid.

His greeting was always the same. “Hello lads. Who’s going to flash the ash?” followed, when presented with a fag, by “Can I have one for Ron?” (that’s ‘later on’ for the unenlightened by the way). Another claim to fame or, rather, infamy is that it was I who introduced him to the pleasures of a ‘Boar’s head’ (brand of very strong baccy) and liquorice paper roll-up, a delight so rich in tar that you could almost feel your lungs filling up with every drag. Sadly, in later years, he developed throat cancer and ultimately died of a heart attack.

Now as far as I know Don was never part of the pop scene back then when everyone stood seven feet tall in their ridiculous platform shoes, resplendent in floral shirts with giant lapels together with twenty inch Lionel’s, and even I had flowing locks of golden hair, but when I got home I checked out his group. Do take a look online at ‘Police Dog Hogan’. Like me you will be amazed at how good they are, with four albums already behind them and some very professional videos, doubtless down to Don’s promotional skills. Actually this probably doesn’t count as name dropping if you’ve not heard of them yet and I have refrained from mentioning those that you would have.

Rock star was never a realistic option for me as a career and after a spell studying physical sciences at Ewell Tech I ended up analyzing non ferrous metals for the print industry using chemical methods, electrolysis, gas spectroscopy and pioneering x-ray spectroscopy. The x-ray spectroscope we had was the size of my bathroom. I bet you could put the modern equivalent in your pocket.

These were the days when printing was reliant on white metal type, the content of which altered very slightly, due to oxidation, every time it was re-cast. Each type, mono type, lino type and stereo type had a different composition and my job was to assay it so that the proportions of its composition could be brought back up to the desired standard by adding mainly lead for bulk, tin for fluidity and antimony for hardness. I always fancy that this interlude may have left me with my legacy of gout as it is associated with lead poisoning, such fun.

I left well before the innovative changes in printing made our whole industry virtually redundant and got a job in the labs of the then Metropolitan Waterboard in Islington, hence the next reunion, with the guys responsible for ensuring the safety of London’s, and much of The South East’s, drinking water from the seventies to around 2010. If you met us you’d boil it or drink more beer!