Sunday, 25 May 2014
I've spent the past week on a walking holiday in Anglesey: hence no posts. (I leave my computer behind. Surely one point of a holiday is to provide a break from normal activities.)
Northern Rail Network.
The first leg of my train journey to Anglesey was by Trans-Penine Express from Dewsbury to Manchester. Although it was Saturday morning, (no business travellers) the train was absolutely packed and I had to spend the entire journey standing jammed with my luggage in the entrance area. I understand that extra carriages have been acquired for the Northern Rail Network but someone has decided that the South has greater need so these have been passed on. However, this journey provided confirmation of my view that what we need in the North is not a fancy and outrageously expensive HS2 route to London, but a a much cheaper and much more necessary upgrading the network between the northern cities.
Tribute to youth.
Most of my fellow (and a few sister) standees were rugby league fans going to support Leeds Rhinos in a two-day competition in Manchester. They appeared to be in their early twenties and, although it was still only mid-morning, were cheerfully "necking" cans of lager. They were consideration itself: helped lift my heavy bag onto the train, squashed up to make space for me, and one of the girls offered to let me sit on the pop- up seat against which she was leaning. They carried on a cheerful and perhaps slightly raucous conversation but in the journey of nearly an hour I didn't hear a single swear-word. I hope it doesn't sound too patronising, but I find this very encouraging. I suspect rugby league attracts a better quality of support than soccer. I hope the Rhinos covered themselves with glory.
Road signs in Welsh
Apparently 70% of the Anglesey population speak Welsh, so it is reasonable that their road signs should be in both Welsh and English. However, since they rely so much on tourism I think it would be safer and more convenient if the signs were first in English and then in Welsh. It is natural to read a sign "from the top" and, by the time you've realised that the top isn't what you want and shifted down to the bottom you've often passed the sign and missed the necessary information.
I gather that May is the driest month in Anglesey. From our experience, heaven help them in April.
We covered a good two thirds of the coastal path. The views the northern part are stunning, rivalled only in my experience by the Cornish coast, especially around Lizard Point. There was a massive profusion of spring flowers: notably thrift, sea squill and bluebells. The bluebells covered vast areas of open ground and cliff- side and were still at their best, whereas those in the woodlands around here reached their peak two or three weeks ago. I was rapped over the knuckles by one of our party who is an enthusiastic Welsh nationalist for referring to them as "English" bluebells. They are "native" bluebells, darker than the intrusive Spanish variety and drooping over at the top of the stem. Another distinction is that the stamens of the native variety are white whereas the Spanish are blue (or maybe it's the other way sound: I'll check next year)
It's a relief that Pfizer have abandoned their attempts to take over Astra-Zeneca. That saves the embarrassment of Vince Cable's having to upset the Tories by vetoing it, or rousing our fury by letting it go ahead. It was annoying to read the sensationalist statement in the Guardian that the decision to withdraw had "wiped £9b from the value of the shares" without any mention that this really was "froth" because they'd gone up by double that when the offer was made. For once the carpet baggers have had their fingers burned.
I think we Liberal Democrats have not done quite so badly in the local council elections as the media make out. Nationally we polled 13%, which is considerably more than the single figures the opinion polls have been predicting. Here in Kirklees we lost not a single seat, and the same applies in Bradford. In neighbouring Leeds we lost only one.
I know that's no comfort to the 300 or so councillors who did lose their seats but, as we can no longer lay any claim to the protest vote we must expect times to be tough. Bigger disappointments could be in store on the declaration of the Euro results tonight.
Be that as it may, the calls for Nick Clegg to resign are ridiculous. Although, as regular readers of this blog will appreciate, I don't agree with some of that we have done in the coalition, to offer Clegg as a sacrificial lamb is both unfair and pointless. The entire party must take responsibility for what we've done, learn from our mistakes, and emphasise in our campaigning the undoubted gains, must notably the fixed term parliament, we have achieved.
We must seriously question the judgement, I'm tempted to say the sanity, of those Liberal Democrat candidates who call for a leadership election at this stage.
Not really a political point, but I'm so pleased to be told by our Christian Aid organiser that our door to door collection reached £1 801, up £300 on last year. Another example of Northern grit in the face of adversity.