Friday, July 27, 2007

Here comes the sun ?

Forecast for the rest of the summer, courtesy of the Met Office:
Issued 24 July 2007
Forecast for the remainder of Summer 2007
The forecast update below is based on latest indications for the remainder of summer (i.e. until the end of August).
Near average temperatures are likely to continue for the rest of July. However, during August there are signs of a change of weather type, with an indication that most regions will experience some periods with above average temperatures.
Above-average rainfall is likely to continue in most regions for the rest of July and at first in August. For the remainder of August current indicators favour a trend to drier-than-normal conditions for most of the UK.

Could be an end to the rain and floods.....

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Gloucestershire Lesson

Tewkesbury, once surrounded by fields is a temporary island

It is raining in London tonight, as it has done on many nights since May.

Whichever way you cut the statistics this has been a wet summer, as in there has been above average rainfall. However London has not been dramatically wet in the way of Yorkshire and now Western England. Last Friday saw some localised flooding but nothing that hadn't cleared by the next day.

In contrast the flooding in Gloucestershire and some other western counties has been on almost biblical proportions The town of Tewkesbury (pronounced Chooksbury by the real locals !) has been an island since Friday.

The County Town, Gloucester has been beseiged for days by the River Severn and even elegant Cheltenham has suffered water shortages as the supply becomes polluted and swamped by rain water. It is one of the great ironies that in this flood there has been such a great shortage of drinking water.

I should declare an interest in Gloucestershire. I lived for 3 years very near to Tewkesbury and for a further 5 years in the City of Gloucester itself. Many of my childhood memories are from that county. Although moving to Kent and subsequently London was seen as "progress" by my Father and subsequently me, I look back in fondness on this County and its people.

In many ways a county like Gloucestershire is far closer to the essence of England than modern London will ever be. I say that in a totally positive way. It is often the little things like the manners of other people that are noticeable. In Gloucestershire you would not be surprised to be let out at a junction by another motorist while in London you would worry about the motives of the rare "friendly motorist". The pace of life is slower but the quality of life (except in flood days) is arguably higher.

One school friend I remain in touch with is in the Gloucestershire police and is doubtless working hard today. He is married to a teacher and they have two children. Such a family in London would struggle to find somewhere to live that was affordable. While Gloucestershire is subject to rising property prices as elsewhere it is still possible for public servants to afford nice houses and send their children to schools where the education is good and generally free of violence.

In short, life can be good in Gloucestershire. That is not to say I am completely blinded by rose-tinted spectacles. The downside of such areas can sometimes be a paroachial attitude. Gloucester is not immune to the horrors that affect the rest of the world and towards the end of my days in Gloucester it came to light that the City had been home to a horrific married couple of serial killers, the Wests. Their grim record was one of the worst in England's history.

Despite such abberations Gloucestershire is generally a gentler, more polite place than London.

In Tewkesbury in the mid-80s we used to go shopping from our village. From what I remember the parking restrictions were few and those that did exist were enforced by reasonable wardens who were always willing to "give 5 minutes". Imagine trying that in London !

I don't think I could have realised how special the place was back then. Tewkesbury with its timbered buildings and ancient abbey, Gloucester where we lived next to the huge Cathedral. Suburban London is so functional and repetive in contrast to these towns of character and variety.

I am not going against London but I do remember all that life in an essentially a rural county had to offer. The frustrations were fewer and tended to consist of Combine Harvesters trundling down the roads. ! Farmers are important in Gloucestershire and they are some of those suffering most in these floods.

The Prime Minister visited Gloucester today and it made me smile to see how the local paper, the Gloucester Citizen, covered the story:

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown flew into Gloucester by helicopter today at 7.35am. Mr Brown flew over Tewkesbury and Gloucester before landing at the Waterwells police headquarters for a meeting with Chief Constable Tim Brain and other crisis team leaders. A total of 48,000 homes in Gloucester are without power after the Castlemeads power station was shut down. Postcodes affected include: GL1-7, 10, 17, 50, 51 and 52. More than 150,000 homes are without water but bowsers (mobile water tanks) are stationed throughout the county. People are advised to boil the bowser water before consumption. Cheltenham has an estimated 20 hours of water left. Residents are urged to use it sparingly and not panic as this will mean supplies will run out much more quickly. Meanwhile an urgent appeal has been launched for builders merchants to supply "dumpy bags" (large sandbags.) Any merchant who can help is asked to call 01452 753292 and ask for Nigel.

I'm sure the Evening Standard wouldn't be so unfazed enough to mention the Prime Minister and the phone number of a man collecting sandbags in the same article !

In terms of lessons on global warming, I remain sceptical. Up until now the run of dry summers when hose pipe bans came into force was blamed on global warming. Now floods are blamed on it too. In reality this has all happened before, famously in 1947 and before that.

This excellent article from the Times give a history of Britain's floods and remind us that Britain generally has been a wet country !

The one lesson I would take is that nature in all its forms is a huge and powerful force that can swamp us all. I remember 2 years ago when New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina. America haters from the North London liberals and others marvelled how the world's superpower could be reduced to such a state by a hurricane.

This piece from the Guardian was typical:

Blaming Bush:
LeaderSaturday September 3, 2005The Guardian
Hurricane Katrina has cruelly demonstrated the awesome power of nature and the havoc it can wreak on the proudest efforts of humankind. It has also exposed the United States government, and George Bush at the head of it, to charges of badly mishandling what looks like being one of the country's worst ever natural disasters. Unlike what happened after the September 11 terrorist attacks, partisan warfare has already broken out over the waterlogged catastrophe that is New Orleans and the battered coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. This is a crisis in full spate - as shown by shocking images of bodies floating in putrid water and desperate refugees scrabbling to catch supplies dropped by helicopter. America is the richest and most powerful country on earth. But its citizens, begging for food, water and help, are suffering agonies more familiar from Sudan and Niger. The worst of the third world has come to the Big Easy.

What the Guardian will be unlikely to point out is now huge swathes of England have been reduced to hunting for bottled water and coping without electricity in a similar way to the residents of New Orleans did 2 years ago. Back then George Bush was at fault but now it is the English weather. Helicopters buzz around the sky picking up who they can find. The general lack of looting may reflect well on the people of Gloucestershire and beyond but the state of Gloucestershire is remarkably similar to post-Katrina in its waterlogged landscape. Thankfully there was no ferocious wind and loss of life in all the recent floods has been amazingly light. However it is a reminder that all nations can be victims of nature and in this case no hurricane just simple rain.

A cottage in Gloucestershire pokes from beneath the floods

I am sorry to see Gloucester and beyond suffering so now. I only hope the floods end soon and I have no doubt that Gloucestershire will recover and continue to be great place to live full of a friendly and civilised people.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My son

This is my son, born three weeks ago. As you can see he is doing well and maintaining a sceptical eye on events around him !

Good for him that his first month is such a cool July as last July was so hot which would all be a bit less comfortable when you're in your first month.......

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer in the City

This was the scene at London Bridge station at lunchtime today. A year ago it was 36 C at this time- now we have monsoons. No flooding in our area but others have been less fortunate.....

I changed trains at London Bridge and was confronted with a near wall of water when I got off the train. In my haste to reach covered I slipped over on the platform which was very slippery. Received a cheerful "Are you alright mate ?" from a fellow passenger. Fortunately I was !

I'm no cameraman but note the water coming out of the drain on the platform in the second clip. It was very wet !

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Don't Snow for me Argentina....

Still on my 2 weeks' paternity leave here hence some spare time as there's only so much a Father can do for one baby when he has a good Mother and a hyper-active Mother-in-law staying too.

Saw this on my web travels:

Snow falls in Argentina
10 Jul 2007
Snow has fallen in the Argentinean capital for the first time in almost 90 years, reports the Associated Press on July 10th.The news provider states that Buenos Aires received a sustained snowfall for several hours yesterday after a mass of air from Antarctica reacted with a system of low pressure.This was the first major snowfall in the city since 1918 and prompted many local children to play outside and throw snowballs.According to a local meteorologist, such a phenomenon is extremely rare and is a once in a century event.

Maybe there is no need for Al Gore to turn all the lights off in his mansion just yet............ Oh actually he wasn't going to do that anyway- that just goes for the rest of us !

Monday, July 09, 2007

Boris the Best

Don't be fooled by his ruffled look- this is a serious politician !

Young Luis's arrival has put me a bit behind the times in terms of Political events.

However I wanted to return to a story from last week to register my support for Boris Johnson in his, as yet, unannounced campaign to be Mayor of London

I hope it is true.

Boris Johnson is a rarity in modern British Politics. He is charismatic, independent and original while being able and talented. He seems free of the shackles of Cameroonian correctness while being someone who I think all could respect as being genuine and sincere.

I hope Boris does run as for the first time in 8 years the Conservatives would have a serious candidate and a real challenger to Ken Livingstone for control over this great city.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Born into a world of terror and love

For any regular readers you will have noticed that my posts have been severely depleted recently.

I am in fact alive and well but have been rather pre-occupied in the "real world".

Mrs. Donatella gave birth to our first child, a boy, last Saturday night.

The experience of becoming a parent is of course much written about. From my experience it is life changing in some ways while not in others. I think the responsibility of being responsible for an innoncent and helpless life is the most significant fact. There is of course the tremendous feeling of love for this little life before you. Also in terms of perspective, you cease to become someone's son and become someone's father.

It also gives you a much bigger stake in the future. Something forecast to happen in 2050 was almost irrlevant to me on a personal level. I could very well be dead by then or at least well into old age. However now, God willing, my son would be in his mid-40s in 2050. It is not so distant anymore.

However in other ways life goes on as before. Of course there is the huge domestic upheaval of caring for a newborn but even that will pass. Work, from which I have a brief restbite, will soon be back.

Our son was actually born at quite a significant time, to my mind at least.

June 30th 2007 was the last day it was legal to smoke in a public enclosed place in England.

It marked the end of the wettest recorded June in English history.

It was the day 2 NHS doctors drove a Jeep Cherokee packed with gas and petrol into the front of Glasgow airport. Thankfully there were no significant injuries.

It was the day after the same group of terrorist medics had attempted to let off two large car bombs in London's west end.

To think that my son was born in a City that had just narrowly avoided a major terrorist attrocity was quite moving in itself.

Even more ironic was the fact he was born in a NHS hospital, the NHS being the employer of most of the group responsible for the attacks.

This is of course likely to happen many times during my son's life. It is more than probable that future attacks will be "succesful".

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister who resigned last week spoke of a 40 year war on terror and others have spoken of it lasting a hundred years making it an issue not only for my son but also his children.

Children have always been born into uncertain worlds. My own generation were born into one divided by Cold War and apparently facing the possibility of nuclear holocaust. That passed and I even married someone from the other side of that divide. It is possible, although currently unlikely that the current conflict could face a similar resolution during my son's life.

The main difficulty of resolving the current global war of terror is that the objectives of the terrorists are so unclear. The IRA bombed London at various points when I was growing up but their ultimate objective was clear- a united Ireland. The IRA were also relative "gentlemen" compared to Al Quaeda, telephoning warnings before major bombings. Al Queada and their associates seek simply to kill as many as possible without having a clear objective.

That said, life goes on. The care my wife and son received in the NHS was very great and the dedication of the doctors and midwives humbling. While a few bad doctors willing to become terrorists do exist, the thought I hold this day is that the vast majority of them like the vast majority of all people are ultimately motivated by love in all its various forms.

It is the strength of love in this world, that knows both love and terror, that will eventually win. I hope for my son's sake that terror is defeated sooner rather than later. Even if this does not happen I know that love will eventually triumph in all places whether in my lifetime, my son's lifetime or even many generations from now.

A rather irreverant interpretation from the Times of the terrorist doctors' contribution to the NHS...