24 December 2019

Christmas 2019

In what has been a turbulent and frankly unpleasant year in many regards, where dodgy political leadership dominates in many countries and the opposition to it is often nearly as bad, it can become rather easy to lose hope of things ever improved.

This is where my faith in Jesus helps. The Bible foretells of a time when tears will end, suffering will cease and justice will be given for all. Those who have caused so many of the problems that we face today will have to face judgement. I'm looking at you, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

The good - and getting that status is easy than you might think - will get their just reward in paradise.

That is one thought that keeps me getting up in the morning. Another is that while I can't solve all the world's problems, I can help where I reasonably can.

So, help where you can. It will be appreciated one way or another.

Merry Christmas and I wish you a lovely New Year.

21 December 2019

The next five years

Boris Johnson, after his emphatic win eight days ago, is secure in power for the next five years bar anything major happening in the Jennifer Acuri department or something that we can't yet see coming.

Johnson's coalition is reliant on a range of groups, including ex-Labour working class voters in the North; they switched en masse in the election and could just as easily switch back for a good Labour leader.

Unfortunately, I am not sure that Labour is going to end with a good leader; they may well try 'Corbynism without Corbyn' and without him for the media to pounce on, the policies might be subjected to more scrutiny instead. Many of them are popular, but a large feast of goodies was seemingly not.

The big question is Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement will get through mostly intact - there will likely be some minor amendments during the course of passage; the Lords might want to add some bits that Johnson will accept to get the bill through by 31 January.

We will leave in an orderly manner then. The trade deal will the next more difficult stage. The EU holds most of the cards here; a No Deal would be far worse for us than for the remaining 27 members of the EU.

I personally expect a lot of noisy in public negotiations over the course of 2020, resulting in something that Johnson will call a deal, but will in reality be a very much interim agreement with more difficult issues punted until later on.

Free movement will end, of course, and the UK will move to the ETIAS visa waiver programme. I will almost certainly get a ETIAS waiver on a standing basis as soon as I can. I strongly suspect there will be real difficulty filling jobs in some sectors with British workers; our culture of handing off 'dirty jobs' to other people that frankly goes back to the British Empire is coming back to bite us in the proverbial backside.

Rejoining? Not before 2040 at the earliest and certainly not as a UK.

Scotland will likely be refused a second referendum in this parliament, but come 2024, the SNP will make it a condition of any support for a Labour minority government... if there is indeed a hung parliament.

14 December 2019

History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes: Analysis of the 2019 General Election

The biggest Conservative win since 1987 has secured Boris Johnson his place in history. He will, for whatever happens after, be the person who takes Britain out of the European Union at the end of January. For all the incompetence, venality, lies and outright dodgy behaviour was not enough to stop him from romping home.

There are a number of reasons why this happened and a lot of them ultimately boil down to Jeremy Corbyn, along with his top team. In no particular order:
  1. The utter gridlock and paralysis of the House of Commons in the last Parliament provided a powerful enemy for Johnson to use on the campaign trial.
  2. 'Get Brexit Done' is a powerful and basic slogan that is easily understood. 'For The Many, Not The Few' needs explanation as to who is who... and tends to put off the self-defined few.
  3. The media were hostile against Corbyn, yes. However, Corbyn made no serious attempt to persuade them to his way of thinking, instead railing against them, which doesn't tend to make someone like you. Hostility against the Labour Party by the British press is a fact of life and a better leader could have dealt with it.
  4. Labour made gaffe after gaffe over the last few years that could have been easily avoided, Diane Abbott being a case in point. This handed the media ammunition to use against Labour.
  5. The vile behaviour of Corbyn's 'outriders' towards anyone who did not bow down and worship the Dear Leader was more ammo for the media. It put a lot of moderates off voting Labour and of course led to a slew of defections. Insulting potential voters never works.
  6. Antisemitism: this not only hit Labour with the Jewish vote, but gave major ammo to the media and trickled through to others who found the whole thing deeply repulsive, myself included. Also Jews are seen as far more integrated into British society than Muslims and Islamophobia more acceptable, alas.
  7. All the defectors lost their seats. Change UK failed to define itself quickly enough, didn't have any clear policies and then split before it could do anything useful. It was an utter failure, which is a pity.
  8. The Lib Dems had a leader tainted by her involvement in the coalition, lack of decent headline policies and as they were seen as unlikely to win in many seats, Remain voters went for tactical voting instead.
  9. Labour's Brexit policy was too slow in developing and even then wasn't clear. Corbyn's failure to take a clear stance managed to annoy both Leavers and Remainers.
  10. There was no serious attempt by Labour to form any Remain Alliance; it was 'my way or the highway'. Now we have crossed the bridge of Brexit.
  11. Labour's policies failed to acknowledge the real aspirations of many to become wealthy. They were also a whole litany of shopping items that couldn't be boiled down into a single poster.
  12. Corbyn had a metric tonne of baggage that could be used against him relating to the IRA and Islamic terrorism. It was highly prone to misinterpretation at best.
Where we go from here is the subject of further posts; I will do those at a later point.

13 December 2019

General Election 2019 - Results

I'm going to do a fuller post in this when I'm less sleep deprived, but my reaction to the exit poll was "Woah!".

My thought this morning is that a lot of people need to get out of their echo chambers more, because in retrospect, this was pretty obvious.

07 December 2019

General Election 2019 predictions

My 2017 prediction makes for interesting reading now

This prediction is made therefore with little actual confidence.

The question that this election ultimately rests on is whether Conservative gains from Labour in Leave-supporting areas in the North will exceed Conservative losses to the SNP in Scotland and the Lib Dems in Remain-supporting areas in the South of England.

Corbyn is toxic among many voters. Whether the 'smears' are true or false, they have worked and Labour's abysmal handling of antisemitism has not helped in the slightest.

Johnson isn't exactly popular among the wider electorate; I doubt you will get any huge fans of him anywhere. However, his 'Get Brexit Done' message has a certain powerful resonance that Labour's fudge doesn't.

The economy isn't great, but nor has it tipped into recession. "It's the economy, stupid" remains true and while we are likely to have another recession sooner rather than later, Johnson is lucky to have called the election when he did.

So my prediction:

  • Conservative overall majority of under 25, quite possibly under 15.
  • Labour end up going backwards significantly and end up under 250 seats. Corbyn resigns and his replacement will be someone who carries forth a lot of the policies with less of the baggage.
  • The Lib Dems will significant vote share gains, but barely any seat gains. 
  • The Brexit Party will lose a bucket load of deposits.
  • All the defectors and independents will lose their seats.
  • The Alliance will gain a couple of seats off the DUP in Northern Ireland.
  • We leave the EU on 31 January 2020 and enter the transition period; however, there will not be a 'No Deal' at the end of 2020 - there will be something that Johnson, who may be a coward but isn't that much of an idiot, will call a 'deal'. Trying for 'No Deal' would be politically suicidal and likely stopped by a Commons where 'Leave' means a lot of different things. Free movement will end after 2020, however.
  • 'Austerity' will be officially dead and the Tories will try to repudiate it. What changes they make won't be enough to deal with some pretty major deprivation issues.
  • The Fixed Term Parliament Act will be repealed and replaced with something that eliminates the 2/3 requirement for an early election.

23 November 2019

56 Years of Doctor Who

Well, the Series 12 Trailer is out. It's rather staggering to think this is the twelfth run of a revival in a world where many shows don't even get twelve episodes total.

Got to say that I'm rather impressed with the trailer. It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun and hopefully some of the writing has improved; Chibnall's scripting was a major complaint among even those who like Jodie Whittaker's daughter.

No air date yet, mind and I think we're going to have get used to a season every 18 months or so from now on... well, 15 or 16 in this case.

But I'll frankly take what I can get.

10 November 2019

Remembrance 2019

The First World War has nearly passed out of living memory - the oldest person alive, aged 116, was 15 when it ended and lived in Japan. All those who served in any combatant capacity on the various fronts have passed on.

It's very difficult to see a bunch of people in a black & white photograph as 'us', but they were. Peter Jackson's superb They Shall Not Grow Old, with colour images and reconstructed sound, helped really bring home the reality of that conflict. The slang may have been different, the fashion definitely so and the weapons far less advanced than those that appear on today's, still bloody, battlefield, but the emotions these people felt would have been just the same. Fear, disgust, friendship, relief, sadness, pain.

Let's not do this again and let's work to end the scourge of war worldwide.

We will remember them.

02 November 2019

General Election 2019

There may be something of a resolution depending on the result of the general election. A Conservative majority would see the Withdrawal Agreement ratified and we'd move over to negotiating a trade deal during the transition period, which may get extended.

A Labour minority government (a majority is very unlikely) would give us another referendum, probably ending up with us remaining in the EU.

If we get a continuation of the status quo... who knows?

While I find the current Conservative government highly distasteful, I can't bring myself to vote Labour with the current leadership. Since I live in a safe Conservative seat, I will likely vote Lib Dem to help boost their national numbers and make a clear case for Remain.

20 October 2019

Where next for Brexit?

After yet another government defeat yesterday, Boris Johnson sent a photocopy of a letter to the EU Council asking for another extension along with two further letters calling for them to reject the extension because he thinks he can get the deal ratified this week.

I'm not so sure; definitely not in its current form that's for sure. A lot of the amendments tried in the May era narrowly failed - but some of the people who helped vote them down were in ministerial positions and obliged under collective responsibility to vote against. These have now been purged from the front benches and some cases right out of the party.

Quite a few of these amendments will turn up again... and may well pass.

We're also very likely to get another extension from the EU27 and this whole process goes on and on...

15 October 2019

Turkey, Kurds and Trump

The primary responsibility for the Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria is that of Turkey itself.

However, Trump's decision to withdraw US forces and betray the Kurds who had done the bulk of the fighting and dying fighting Daesh gives him a very high level of secondary responsibility. Especially due to the sudden nature of the withdrawal. 

Also, Trump seems to be of the "let the [offensive term for Muslims] kill each other" infant school of thought that is oversubscribed in Western society today. I've never liked that view. 

24 September 2019

Utter humiliation for Boris Johnson

I tuned in for the tail end of the Supreme Court judgement. While I'm not in favour of having criminal trials broadcast on television, these appeal court judgements are something that I am perfectly fine with.

And, wow, it was damning for Boris Johnson. The summary and the full judgement available on online make clear that the 11 justices view a five-week prorogation as unjustified just to create a new Queen's Speech... as well as unlawful. To quote:

61. It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason - let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, from 9th or 12th September until 14th October. We cannot speculate, in the absence of further evidence, upon what such reasons might have been. It follows that the decision was unlawful. 

The prorogation is null and void - the 2017-19 session is back on from tomorrow at 11.30am - and this crazy process has yet more twists and turns.

If Boris Johnson had any morals, he'd resign over this. I guess we'll have to kick him out via a Vote of No Confidence instead though...

21 September 2019

A Bad Day to Wear Red (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.13, "Obsession")

While collecting samples of a very hard element, Kirk's landing party is attacked by a killer cloud. A cloud that Kirk has seen before. He's determined to hunt this thing down, because this time, it's personal...

This is a very bad episode for fans of red shirts. No less than five are killed during the process of the story, none of them in particularly pleasant manner. Another, the main guest star, has a major attack of survivor's guilt and also tries to Kirk Fu Kirk, which could have gone a lot worse than it did.

Survivor's guilt is a big theme in this episode, although not named as such. It had only recently been identified - and would later become combined into the broader diagnosis of PTSD - initially among Holocaust survivors. I'd imagine there were a lot of cases of it - especially among survivors of an attack that killed a large number of their comrades - but this was one area of PTSD that hadn't been identified at the time of the war; battle fatigue (aka "shellshock") was something that had been dealt with a lot better then.

Kirk's survivor's guilt is prominent in this episode, manifesting itself in an obsession to go after the creature at the cost of a time-sensitive medical mission. William Shatner may have a reputation of being a massive scenery chewer, but here he plays it fairly restrained, his anger and determination clearer to see without throwing something at a vent that jams it open, unlike Stephen Brooks' one-shot Ensign Garrovick.

This is a strong episode for everyone except Uhura, who doesn't have that much to do and Sulu, who isn't in it. Spock demonstrates that Vulcan logic isn't perhaps the best thing to deploy in a counselling role.

As a final note, the version on Netflix is the original broadcast version, not the remastered one, which makes an interesting viewing. Mind you, the dated effects don't really detract that much.


An excellent episode, helped by Shatner playing it pretty restrained and with a strong overall story. It's very much a hidden gem and deserves wider recommendation.


09 September 2019

A massive week in British politics

The week I pick to go on holiday to the Isle of Man... and British politics goes even crazier than it has been lately.

Boris Johnson's majority was eliminated, pretty much through his own actions. He should have never made the Benn act vote a confidence matter, but he doesn't seem to be getting very good advice lately. Now, with Parliament prorogued until 14 October, he faces the prospect of being forced to ask the EU for another extension unless he gets some new deal by then, which isn't very likely.

So, what next? Possibly more MPs standing down; maybe even further defections from the Conservative Party.

I think we are likely to have a November General Election - whether it is during a No Deal scenario or after another extension, it will be very bad for the Tories.

We might just get Prime Minister Corbyn...

24 August 2019

Forest fires in the Amazon

The rather large fires in the Amazon forest have led to considerable world concern due to their potential impact on the effects to combat climate change. The fact that these fires are now routine and this is apparently below average fire activity is concerning.

It's good that EU nations are threatening to block the Mercosur trade deal unless Bolsonaro takes more action on this whole affair.

While people in the West can consume less meat, it's not going to do a thing unless wider action is taken to change agricultural production practices and indeed take other needed action. This is a global problem and it needs global solutions.

Unfortunately, the leadership sadly is absent in several key countries at present and I fear it might not turn up until it is too late.

In fact, it probably already is too late; we're going to have to move sooner rather than later to contain the damage corporate and other greed has caused. Which likely means building new, sustainable, cities for the refugees of the coming storms - literal and metaphorical.

15 August 2019

Get Off My Space Lawn! (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.12, "The Deadly Years")

"The Deadly Years" is very much Trek by the numbers. Crew beams down to colony, discovers strange thing going on that starts to affect crew...

In this case the strange thing is that a bunch of young whipper snappers have all turned into old folks, four of which are already dead and the other two (both played by genuine old people, included the earliest born actor to ever appear in the franchise, who was born in 1882 in Switzerland and has a noticeable accent) are heading that way.

All of the landing party are affected, except for Chekov, who is immune for some pseudoscientific reason. With the three main characters plus Scotty all rapidly ageing, the makeup department get to have some fun making the characters look old. This is mostly a ship bound episode; the battle scene later was reused footage from a previous episode and I'm assuming the stuff on the remastered Netflix/DVD version is added specially.

It's interesting to see Kelley and Shatner playing in advance the old men that they would later become in real life. McCoy becomes even more crotchety - and even more Southern - than he normally is. I'm not sure what happened in RL on that front. Kirk on the other hand goes pretty much senile, what Shatner turning in an excellent performance here. It's good to note the now 88-year-old Shatner still seems very compos mentis, although alas Nichelle Nichols, just two years younger, appears to have advanced dementia.

The guest cast... are mostly pretty poor, especially one Commodore. Except for the old guy at the start. He's nice.

The science in all this stretches credibility by a long chalk, with a very quick recovery by Kirk once the solution is found. I'll let it slide partly because of the cool way in which Kirk deals with three Romulan ships without firing a shot.

We also have another old flame of Kirk, who again gets his shirt off and a comedy last scene. Like I said, Trek by the numbers.


For an episode whose deus ex machina involves radiation, it seems appropriate to use the classic line from Chernobyl.

"Not great. Not terrible."


11 August 2019

Guess we're not having a silly season

With the current Brexit date two and a half months away, no-one is going to be getting a rest from politics.

Johnson is determined to get us out of the EU on 31 October come what may, seemingly without caring without constitutional norms he wrecks in the process.

Labour (which can't be called a Remain party) and the Remain parties are arguing in public over the shape of a Stop Brexit unity government; compromise is for many something the other side needs to do, not them.

I'm hoping - and indeed praying - this all gets sorted out before we have a No Deal Brexit... because otherwise it will need to be sorted out after.

05 August 2019

Everybody Was Kirk Fu Fighting (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.11, "Friday's Child")

It's been a while. It's been a serious while. Like two years. A plan to watch all the episodes of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary fell completely by the wayside... and I've decided to rectify that.

With a flood of new Trek content coming over the next couple of years (Picard looks great), it does seem rather appropriate to go back onto this.

I'll link to the previous episode I reviewed here.

I'm going to be aiming for medium length reviews every week or so, but I can't guarantee anything...

So, "Friday's Child"... is full of woe. In multiple ways.

The Enterprise arrives on the planet Capella IV to negotiate a mining treaty with the warrior culture that inhabits the planet while wearing some very silly outfits, only to discover a Klingon representative has gotten there ahead of them. A coup happens and our main trio must flee with the pregnant wife of the former leader. It's suggested that McCoy might be the actual father... which sounds something more like Kirk would do.

There is an episode with a lot of problems in it. The guest cast is poor all around, with phoney accents and bad acting a plenty. Julie Newmar's whatever accent as Eleen is badly distracting, I'm not sure what Tige Andrews was trying to do as Kras the Klingon and Maab just looks silly throughout.

In fact, the whole Capellan portrayal is, shall we say, very much of its time...

We have some frankly dubious scenes where McCoy decides to touch Eleen's belly without warning, gets slapped twice... then slaps her back. With this show of  'male dominance' he then becomes the only person allowed to touch her!

The fight scenes are ridiculous with Kirk Fu galore and a lot of clearly polystyrene rocks.

Where this episode works is whether Lieutenant Commander Scott, Uhura and Chekov in fine form back on the ship as they deal with a reported distress call that is in fact fake. Scott's willingness to take firm decisions is great and we get a wonderful bit of him doing the 'Captain's Log' live on the bridge.

Finally, it is a law universally acknowledged that any pregnant guest character must give birth in an awkward situation... although we don't actually see the birth itself, probably because that wasn't acceptable in 1968.


This is really a rather poor episode, only saved from being awful by some very strong Scotty material.


04 August 2019

Mass shootings in the US

With two mass shootings in the last 24 hours, apparently by white nationalists, the United States needs serious action on both domestic extremism and firearms control.

Unfortunately, there is no realistic prospect of either happening. Not with a President who is actively pouring fuel on the fire with comments saying that his opponents should go back to where they came from.

Trump is the worst US President in my lifetime end of. It's fortunate that he's incompetent, because I fear what an actual competent demagogue would do.

21 July 2019

50 years since the Moon Landing

I've learned a lot in the commemoration of 50 years since the first walk on the Moon. The Apollo 11 in Real Time website allows you to experience the audio and the visuals for the entire mission, with much useful commentary.

In particular some highlights:
  • The routine nature of much of the communication i.e. relaying positions and alignment is still very special.
  • Buzz Aldrin taking Communion on the Moon as one of the very first things he did. His faith meant that much to him.
  • Michael Collins, ship comedian.
  • The fact that only the audio was transmitted live on television; the networks had to rely on models and animation to provide a visual update to the audience - and because of the need for Armstrong to take manual control, the CBS simulation finished early.
 Hopefully, we'll be watching another lunar landing live before 2030.

13 July 2019

Update on things

Just to let everyone know that I'm still alive. The next timetable post is being worked on, but it might be a while before it is actually done.

I've arguably spent too long banging my head against the proverbial wall in debates with Corbynites on Reddit and Twitter...

16 June 2019

Enter Boris Johnson?

Unless Boris Johnson manages to do something completely stupid in the next few weeks, he will almost certainly be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

How long this man is going to remain in the job is much harder to determine. The Government's majority is 5. There is certainly not a majority for any No Deal Brexit.

The EU is not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, certainly not without the Irish agreeing to look at the issue of the backstop. Personally, I'd require an Irish border poll as the condition of any end to the backstop; it's high time we had one. So, Boris will be banging his head against a proverbial wall.

Hopefully, Parliament can stop a No Deal, but they'd need to get their act fully together, ideally before the summer recess because time will be limited after it...

And if Boris decides to prorogue Parliament to make a No Deal, he will basically be acting like a dictator... and the Queen needs to stop him.

03 June 2019

Paul Darrow 1941-2019

Big Finish have confirmed that Paul Darrow, best known for playing Avon in Blake's 7, has died. His role as the cynical computer hacker (although the term didn't exist back then) in the show was truly memorable and you never knew just what side he was on; his character was involved in one of the greatest cliffhangers in TV history. Avon also aimed for the head long before Mal Reynolds.

In his later career, he played quite a few judges with his truly marvellous voice... and also provided the voice pack I use in Elite Dangerous.

Rest in Peace.

30 May 2019

US TV Upfronts 2019

It's time for my annual post on the state of the US television industry. I haven't been paying as much attention to this during the course of the year for various reasons. In any event, there was barely anything new that really excited me. OK, that's not entirely true.

So, here's some points:

  • Into the Badlands' 16-episode third season proved to be its last. While the story was wrapped up, it could have gone on longer had AMC treated it better than they did. A revival in some form would be nice.

  • Blue Bloods will go into its tenth season. The show has remained consistently good, but is a police commissioner in his 70s really realistic?
  • I stopped watching Bull after Michael Weatherley's vile behaviour to Eliza Dushku (who seems to have had a lot of men mistreat her over the years) was revealed. Spielberg jumped ship at the end of the season. The fourth season was required by CBS for syndication purposes, but they could have made an example of this guy and fired him.
  • The Good Fight... has kind of lost something. The musical number in each episode got tiring, the Trump stuff drags and Michael Sheen's Roland Blum outstayed his welcome.
  • Madam Secretary's move towards issue-based episodes with a more liberal slant, while needing to be done in this time, probably cost it a lot of audience. A ten-episode final season in autumn will allow the story to wrap up.
  • Star Trek: Discovery grew the literal beard for Spock and proved a highly enjoyable show in its second run. Michael Burnham is rather uninspiring, but the rest of the cast more than make up for it. Christopher Pike was brilliant. In any event, we're going to be swimming in spin-offs.
The CW
  • The Outpost was the best new show that I watched. Rather enjoyable and I particularly identify with one of the characters for reasons I won't go into here.

  • The Orville is at its most enjoyable when it isn't being a domestic drama. Its lighter-hearted approach stands as a useful counterpart to Discovery and I'd like it to stay around for a while.

  • Chernobyl is going to be nominated for a lot of awards; it's near perfect in acting, design, sound editing, you name it.
  • Game of Thrones arguably rushed its final series; some characters developed too quickly to make their decisions make overall sense. It will still go down as a genre-defining show, although some of its tropes ('sexposition', characters developing via rape) won't hold up well over time.
  • No UK airing for The Blacklist at present, so I can't really comment on that.
  • Moving to NBC proved good for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, whose standards continued to hold up. However, the ratings did not and the seventh run of 13 episodes may well be its last.

25 May 2019

Exit Theresa May

Theresa May was fundamentally not up to the job of being Prime Minister. She lacked the political skills, the charisma and the necessary ruthlessness to hold the very top position. Home Secretary was really as far as she should have gone and her ascension to the top job was basically a historical accident.

It is true that "proper Brexit" without wrecking the economy is an impossible task. Like trying to jump the Grand Canyon on a bicycle. She however was doing it with a pogo stick.

Her successor might well be trying it with a skipping rope. I think there is a good chance Article 50 will be revoked, especially if the policy of a new PM is No Deal.

We have five months before we are currently due to leave. This sorry saga won't be done yet.

18 April 2019

It's A Good Thing that The Good Place doesn't actually exist - Easter 2019

One of the best new comedy shows in recent years has been The Good Place, which explores ethical issues in a great way while being really rather funny and highly quotable to boot. It won a Hugo for "The Trolley Problem" and I wouldn't be surprised if "Janets" from the latest run does the same.

The key concept of the show is that whether you go to the "Good Place" i.e. heaven or the "Bad Place" is dependent on your actions in life, with good ones gaining you points and selfish or harmful actions losing you points. It becomes clear over the course of the run that it's a rather flawed system.

And it would be a flawed system in the real world too. Very few of us would be able to get into heaven on our own merits; my attempts to change some of my bad habits this Lent have been an abject failure by my own admission. The good thing is, we don't need to rely on our own merits; Jesus' death on the cross gave us so many points that he could share them around for everyone who follows him... and more. This doesn't eliminate the need to try to be good people - there is no place in heaven for the selfish or evil - but it does mean we don't have to feel bad over every failure.

Thanks, Jesus. To all my readers, Happy Easter.

17 April 2019

Extinction Rebellion

So a bunch of eco-activists have decided to draw attention to the whole issue of climate change by disrupting public transport in London through various means. They've done that, but also managed to annoy an awful lot of people in the process. Getting realistic change generally involves getting the people with the power to make it happen on side somehow, not by antagonising them.

In relation to climate change, the boat has arguably sailed on any meaningful action to prevent it. We're not going to be able make the necessary changes by 2030, because humanity is at heart a selfish and greedy species. The best we can reasonably do is prepare ourselves for a 4 degree rise over the course of this century and once climate change really starts to bite (it already has), it's going to be very unpleasant for a large number of people.

I can take some grim comfort from the fact I'll likely be dead by the time it happens.

Forgive us Lord our selfish ways.

09 April 2019

Brexit #2

The current Brexit clock stands at 3 days; it is highly likely that it will be extended at the European Council's emergency summit tomorrow, although how long remains to be seen.

There is an increasing frustration at this process among all parties:
  • The EU wondering why we haven't managed to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement or figure out what we actually want instead
  • Hardcore Leavers wondering why we haven't actually left
  • Hardcore Remainers wondering why we haven't revoked Article 50 or gone for a second referendum when it was obvious we were sold a bill of goods
  • Theresa May who frankly would rather have had this sorted out ages ago
  • A lot of the general public who are just sick of the whole thing
Much of the problem is among people who think compromise is a synonym for surrender. The Withdrawal Agreement, with its possibility of an indefinite customs union without any say in its operation, is seen as Leave by the Remain side and Remain by the Leave side... who rarely can actually cite any EU regulations, let alone ones they disagree with.

There is no easy solution here, there never has been. Not without finding some unicorn and the only one we have is busy supporting our coat of arms...

25 March 2019

The Mueller Report

I'd very much like to see the whole thing (or as much as gets released) before I can fully conclude on it, but I can believe that much of the Russian interference operation was conducted independently with the aim of weakening Clinton and electing Trump, whose views were much closer to the Russian world view.

Not exonerating Trump of obstruction of justice is the key finding, but I'd like to see why a decision wasn't made to charge him. If it was made by the Attorney General himself, then... well... the corruption is obvious.

18 March 2019

Christchurch and Utrecht

The recent attack in Christchurch is going to be New Zealand's 9/11; in terms of the relative population alone, it is the equivalent in terms of size. Tightening of gun laws will follow.

The attack in Utrecht today saw three people killed. I've been to the city myself and it's a lovely place, now having joined a long list of names of places where murder in the name of bigotry has taken place.

Both white supremacist and Islamist terrorism are two sides of the same coin; an insidious ideology that believes the best way to deal with a perceived threat against your people is to attack not the source of the actual threat, but something with only a tangential connection to it.

What did the people in the mosques have to do with Islamic extremism? What did the people on the tram have to do with Donald Trump? Next to nothing at most.

Vulnerable young men (and it is nearly all men) are being radicalised via the Internet and via our prison system. Something needs to be done about that without putting our fundamental freedoms at jeopardy.

May all the dead rest in peace and all the injured recover.

05 March 2019


We are supposed to leave the European Union in 24 days. I don't think that will happen. I somehow doubt that any legal clarifications on the backstop (which is necessary because we have no idea how long a trade deal would take to thrash out) would ever be enough to satisfy the ERG. Come next week, Parliament will almost certainly vote against May's deal, against a no deal and in favour of an extension.

The EU will likely grant that, but the price may be a second referendum, which I would personally support. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of just revoking Article 50 without a second vote; while there was certainly criminal activity in the lead-up to the referendum, it didn't exactly involve ballot stuffing and much of the propaganda was called out at the time. In any event, just overturning any big vote like that sets a bad precedent.

At the end of the day, I really just want to go in the quicker queue at passport control and not need a visa to go to Europe for holiday. It's trivial, I know, but much of the stuff the EU is barely noticed in daily life. Free movement is nice, but I'm very unlikely ever to take full advantage of it due to my not exactly brilliant language skills. Customs checks aren't something I deal with at all in my daily life, except for the one time I had to pay £10 extra postage for the import duty on a game I bought from the US. Goods standards... if we left we can raise them ourselves. In any event, most companies would stick to EU standards to avoid having to do two different production lines; they're the global standard in a number of fields, I believe.

Ultimately, I'm just sick of the whole thing. Are you?

02 March 2019

Armchair Time Traveller #3: BR London Midland Region Timetable, June to September 1964

So, back to Britain for the third part of this ongoing series, in which I look at old train timetables.

I acquired this tome (it's so big that 'tome' is the only word one can really use to describe it[1]) via eBay, which is the go to source for historical train timetables of all eras and countries. When I shuffle off this mortal coil, then someone is going to be selling my small collection on a future version of this site, I'd imagine/hope...

Anyway, an explanation. BR for most of its history was split into a number of regions, largely aligned with the boundaries of the pre-nationalisation Big Four, although there were differences and changes over time. The London Midland Region or LMR for short was based around the boundaries of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS - interestingly, these initials are trademarked by the Government so we might get a return of this to join the other three Big Four companies). In practice, this meant services from the four London termini in the picture in a generally NW direction, although the now closed and demolished Broad Street connected to the now London Overground line to Richmond. Services crossing the Pennines also came partly under LMR's aegis.

The historical context

While not the first electrification project carried out by BR, the West Coast Main Line electrification from London to Glasgow, opened in stages from 1959 to 1974, was arguably the most major event of the first half of the near 50-year existence of the organisation. Locomotives constructed for this operation, namely the AL6/Class 86, still ply our rails on freight operations to this day, with some now earning their keep in Bulgaria.

As a result, steam haulage continued on the London Midland at this time, with a major presence for the LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 mixed traffic engine, colloquially known as the "Black Five", along with the BR Standard Class 5, its post-war development. 

However, diesel and electric stock was well established. 

On the Chiltern Main Line out of  London Marylebone, the four-car diesel units later known as Class 115 were in operation. Their interiors were a good deal more luxurious than the more bus-like ones of other Mark 1 based units, to serve the better off commuters of Buckinghamshire. St Pancras had the Class 127, also a four-car unit. Both had the capacity for passengers to see out through the front window and watch the driver at work, although some would pull the blinds down.

The Sulzer Type 2 (Class 25) became so common on the LMR and elsewhere that enthusiasts nicknamed them "Rats", the standard term for them today, but plenty of other types were around.

Electrification from Crewe to Liverpool, as well as in the Birmingham and Manchester areas had resulted in the introduction of the Class 304, with a rather distinctive compressor noise.

However, 25kV was by no means the only spark game in town. The iconic Woodhead Line from Manchester to Sheffield has 1500V DC overhead with units and locomotives to match, some of which ended up in the Netherlands. 

The Bury Line, later converted to a tram line had 1200V DC side contact rail from its World War One era conversion and the Class 504. 

The Watford DC Line, operating from Euston to Watford Junction, shared with the Bakerloo Line (which also ran to the latter at this point) and now part of London Overground, had also been done at the same time, with 750V DC third rail; Class 501 units with bars on the windows to prevent passengers from leaning out were used here as well as to Broad Street and Richmond.

Now about Broad Street. This station, situated next to Liverpool Street, had been severely damaged in air raids in the Second World War and was progressively being run down over this time - the route had limited appeal for those going to central London as faster alternatives were available. It would finally shut entirely in 1986 and be replaced by the Broadgate shopping centre.

Speaking of closures, Richard Beeching was Chairman of British Railways at this time. This is of course a name very familiar to any British rail enthusiast for the wrong reasons. The Great Central Railway, while closed after his return to ICI, would lose its through services to London in 1966 and close entirely in 1969. It has services here in the London St. Pancras to Sheffield line, although many of the intermediate stations had closed in 1963.

Also noted are the closure of Normacot and Cheadle stations on the Crewe-Derby Line (today served by East Midlands Trains) and the closed Cheadle branch line off that respectively; the former had closed in March 1964 and no trace remains, while the latter went the year before with only the station master's house surviving. A proposal to run charter trains to Cheadle for Alton Towers in the 1980s did not come to fruition and the track has since been lifted.

The contents

After a couple of full page notices advertising freight services and warning about engineering work for the WCML electrification, we then have a 13 page index of stations, followed shortly after by 16 pages on seat reservations (2 shillings each) and Regulation Tickets (to enable you to ride at all on a particular service, no charge). A long list of trains that could have been much more simply with a symbol above the appropriate service in the main timetable, where people are going to look anyway!

We then have the sleeper services, which were much more extensive back in 1964, also operating out of St Pancras, Marylebone and Kensington Olympia, the last being an arrival point only for some reason. With many terminus stations being reached in the wee hours, BR helpfully would shunt the sleepers to one side so you could get a longer kip. Also, I have to love this line (emphasis mine):

Dogs or other livestock are not allowed to be taken into the sleeping cars.

This sort of line begs the question of just what someone took on a sleeper train to result in the need to specify that. I'm imagine a chicken clucking all the way down Shap...

We then have the boat train services to the island of Ireland, which has the option on the ferry from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire to have an "open berth" with either a made-up bed for 8 shillings or "rug and pillow only" for 7 shillings. So, a big dormitory with a rug and pillow on some bunk? Who is running this ferry service? Ryanair?

The summary tables for key routes take us up to page 110 and then we get to a whole string of passenger information, including "Specimen single fares between principal stations", which like Ronseal, does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, giving a table of second class fares between the key station. Euston to Glasgow will set you visitors in 1964 back 84 shillings exactly i.e. £4 4s.

(For ease of use, prices were often displayed in shillings and pence only).

This is a walk up flat fare - discounted advance tickets were not a general thing in 1964. Basically around £80 at today's prices. You can get an Advance Single on Virgin Trains today for £65, but you're looking at £141.50 for the any off peak train variety.

However, discounts were available including:
  • Mid-Week Period Return: Go out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, return on those same days in one of the following weeks within one month.
  • Excursion tickets: To go to principal towns, holiday resorts and for special events.
  • Holiday Runabout Tickets: A rover ticket
  • Circular Tour Tickets: For when you want to take a more indirect route.
  • Ramblers' Tickets: Travel to one station, come back from another
The vintage terms of the 1960s appear as we work our way through the rest of the passenger information. There are a list of charges for bicycles, perambulators ("prams" being the contraction from the 19th century that has superseded this word[2]) and humanity's best friend, Canis familiaris i.e. the dog. Dogs at the time had to be tied up or caged in the guard's van in many cases - they also needed to be "efficiently muzzled" to prevent them from barking or requesting other stations on the LTS line[4].

It was common at the time to send luggage you didn't need on the trip ahead of you when going on holiday or up to university (or public school!). This cost 2/9 for each package to be collected and conveyed or conveyed and delivered within Great Britain i.e. part of the road journey being included. For the whole trip, you'd pay 5/6.

Finally, we have a quick section on London Underground services with a tube map.

The rest is timetables with adverts for various services repeated throughout to save space.

The travel times

So, how long is it going to take you to travel through the London Midland Region of British Railways?

I'll cover three types of services here: a London region commuter service, a London to Scotland journey and a 'Regional Railways' service in North Wales.

London commuter service

The Chiltern service from London to Aylesbury Town in 1964, using Class 115 DMUs, took 58 minutes in the peak times, stopping at all the stations on the route - the service frequency was every 15 minutes. For example, 5.57pm departure would get you to Amersham at 6.55pm.

Today, you can do that journey in 54 minutes; the service also goes on for a further nine minutes to the 2008 opened Aylesbury Vale Parkway. Not really a huge difference, but remember that the 115s had a lot more doors.

Long distance

One of the key railway journeys in the UK is from London to Glasgow; the Lowland Sleeper goes there and it is the limit of long distance electrification on the West Coast Main Line. There were in fact three main stations in Glasgow at this point in time - Central, Queen Street and St Enoch. The last of these was closed in 1966 and the site demolished; it is now home to a shopping centre.

The Royal Scot, the 10am departure from Euston to Glasgow Central, arrived after a stop at Carlisle at 5.10pm, a journey time of 7 hours and 10 minutes. Today you can do the journey in 4 hours and 29 minutes on a Pendolino, which is of course considerably shorter.

Regional Railways

Liverpool to Manchester is the oldest inter-city railway route recognisable as a railway in the world (opened in 1830) and can be done in under 40 minutes today depending on what train you get, although the average is around 54 minutes.

In 1964, the journey lengths were about the same, but with a much lower overall service frequency. Today I believe the actual issue is congestion...

An important note - Manchester Piccadilly was not the main station at this time (for one thing undergoing rebuilding as part of electrification), with Manchester Exchange being one of the main calling points. This was closed in 1969 and is now home to the Manchester Central Convention Centre, connected to the Metrolink tram network.


The long distance times here show much electrification sped up journey times nearlywherever it was introduced. I've been on steam hauled rail tours and while they are limited by the need to fit in with other traffic, they're not exactly very fast affairs. And you might only have one book to keep you entertained; for many members of the public, steam only became glamorous once it had disappeared.

1964 would be the end of an era for British Railways; for one thing, it would be British Rail from 1965 onwards...

[1] It weighs 868 grammes or 1lb 14.6 ozs in old money.
[2] Not the only contraction superseding the original world. You have a (tele)phone, women generally wear bra(ssiere)s[3] and many fly on a (aero)plane.
[3]Be careful not to mix that word up with brasserie.
[4]Thank you, I'm here all night.

16 February 2019

Star Citizen: Removal of 'Kumar Chameleon' from this blog

As Cloud Imperium have instituted a new policy requiring any fan-fiction published online to be submitted for their approval via a rather onerous progress and an actual legal release form, I have decided to terminate writing Kumar Chameleon and remove the six posts so far from my blog.

I still intend to play their game, but it's a deep shame they seek to limit fandom in this way.

27 January 2019

Holocaust Memorial Day 2019

The sheer level of evil carried out by the Nazis during the Second World War is staggering and not just carried out by a few people. People built the camps (or directed those who built), planned the transport trains and directed the arrivals to death or 'life'.

It arose out of deliberate dehumanisation and fear. Things that are sadly on the rise again in this world.

We must work very hard to prevent more genocides from occurring and remember those murdered without any justification whatsoever.

12 January 2019

Plans for 2019

To be honest, I've not really got any firm ones. I intend to carry on with the timetable posts, but those will be done as and when I find the time/inclination to do them.

I may well do some other posts; I've really gotten into Rimworld lately...