The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'Travel' Category

30 January
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HS2? Why Not Sort Out The Pathetic A303, A38 And Build A Motorway To Norwich…….

£30b, 20 years to completion – see what happens when politicians get seduced into vanity projects like HS2. Plenty of photo-ops of ministers poring over maps, futuristic graphics, promises of reviving the north….don’t they just love it.

Of course we can predict the reality – costs will double/treble, incompetent management will cause delays, unions will blackmail progress and, by 2032 technology might well have made the whole caboodle outdated.

But just, for a moment, imagine what we could do to improve our shambolic infrastructure with £30b over five years – improve thousands of choke point road junctions with right turn lanes, mini roundabouts, traffic lights. Upgrade existing track and signalling on our existing railway network. Above all convert the A11 into a motorway into the heart of East Anglia. Ensure that the pathetic A303, supposedly the main route between London and South West England, becomes a dual carriageway along its entire length with no roundabouts or junctions. Do the same with the A30 and A38 into the heart of Cornwall and, while you’re at it create a south coast expressway using the A27 and A35.

Highways_Agency_Network_Map_-_November_2011

Our road network has remained frozen for the last thirty years – nothing much has changed (apart from the completion of the M25) since 1980 – which was the year I first began driving regularly in France. In those days the Autoroute network was fairly limited and centred almost exclusively on Paris – and few towns had a bypass. Since then the French have embarked on a steady programme of motorway development and traffic circulation projects that has transformed the whole transport system – as well as a state of the art intercity rail network.

Meanwhile Britain has been asleep at the wheel – often literally.

Still at least we can maybe invest now in a ticket to Leeds by HS2 and bequeath it to our heirs yet unborn to enjoy at some vague time in the future.

That sound? Don’t worry – its Brunel turning in his grave….

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12 June
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“Come Back To Sorrento”

Look at the sea of Surriento,
what a treasure it is!
Even who has travelled all over the world,
he has never seen a sea like this one.
Look at these mermaids
that stare, amazed, at you,
that love you so much.
They would like to kiss you,
And you say: “I am leaving, goodbye.”
You go away from my heart,
away from the land of love,
And you have the heart not to come back.
But please do not go away,
do not give me this pain.
Come back to Surriento,
let me live!

We did something romantic for our Ruby Wedding in 2007….all lovers should try to see Sorrento at least once. It’s a fascinating town in itself and there is so much to explore in the surrounding area -a great place to visit

….you can easily reach the Isle of Capri

….Naples

With the warning shadow of Vesuvius always there in the background…

Alternatively you can look down on Naples from the volcano’s summit…

Then look into the crater…

Pompeii reminds us of the power of Vesuvius..look what happened to this Roman…

Perhaps he’d been walking along this street when he was caught by the eruption…

Nearby Herculaneum is even better preserved….

Of course from Sorrento you can also travel south to Amalfi..

Then back to Sorrento to just sit and watch the seagulls…maybe even catch the eye of a mermaid…

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14 March
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Downton Abbey Creator Wants To Destroy A Few Myths About “The Titanic”

Good news – Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey is making a four part television drama about the Titanic. It will not be able to match the magnificent special effects of James Cameron’s Hollywood blockbuster but he does hope to avoid Camerons simplistic and hackneyed symbolism of the ship as a microcosm of the class struggle where plucky but poor steerage passengers were left to drown while the rich seized all the lifeboats.

He points out that third class women and children were rescued ahead of first class men, that all the evidence appears to indicate a fairly orderly evacuation and that, above all, there is no guarantee that a similar accident happening today would be handled more effectively.

Indeed he believes that our modern assumption that previous generations were less adept at organising a bold and efficient response to the unexpected merely demonstrates a baseless arrogance and a shallow understanding of the past. We have convinced ourselves that the contemporary tendency to “emote” and sustain the continuous mantra of “caring and sharing” somehow endows us with a higher purpose in life.

The mistake is to imagine the sort of Channel 4 thing that everything was ghastly until 1968 and Woodstock and then it all took a tremendous turn for the better. That’s essentially bogus. Every period has some things to offer that worked well and others that were unjust and wrong and repressive.

Whoops – take care, Julian…in some quarters going public with the view that maybe previous generations made a better fist of things than team 21st century might well be characterised as a “Hate Crime”….

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18 December
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Hua Shan Plank Walk – 20 Inches Wide Overlooking A Gorge 3,000 Ft Below..

Hua Shan is a mountain in the Shaanxi Province of China, about 120 kilometres east of the city of Xi’an and is more than 2000 metres in height. Cut into the side of the mountain and overlooking a deep gorge is a pathway made up of three planks laid on top of iron bolts drilled into the rockface.

Walking along the planks, even with a safety harness, is terrifying but, if you fancy an adrenalin rush, this is the path to travel…..

The first view of the only 0.3 metres wide planks was simply and quite literally breathtaking: The half-rotten planks lay on some iron bolts that were drilled into the mountain every five meters or so and were held together by a few rusty nails. Walking onto the planks leaves you with nothing below you for at least a 1000 meters……………………………………… I am not sure how dangerous the walk actually is, but all three of us were holding on for dear life and walking ever so slowly, making sure we did not slip or let go of the handrail (unless we had to clip the harness into the next section).

Suggestion….cut the annoying music on the vid..

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24 May
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The Maynard Dixon Painting That Told Me To Go To The USA

During the late 1940s and early 50s my dad would sometimes buy a copy of the Saturday Evening Post from our local WH Smith in South London. It was a much better deal in terms of pictures and articles of interest than anything published in England at the time. I particularly remember being astonished at the advertisements for food and drink – this at a time when food continued to be rationed in a rather run down dilapidated post war London suburb, still pock marked with bombed out buildings.

As the years rolled by and prosperity returned Hollywood and Rock n’Roll crafted part of my own cultural outlook. As a history teacher and politics nut I developed a fascination for the American scene but never imagined crossing the pond for real, only in my imagination.

Then in 1990, browsing in a local discount bookstore I picked up a copy of “Exploring The West” by Herman J Viola and there, on page 240 was this picture, “Open Range”, painted by Maynard Dixon in 1942…..


the grim gaunt edges of the rocks, the great bare backbone of the Earth

I was hooked. I just had to go out there and see that for myself – the big sky, the majestic mesas, the sandy, scrubby landscape. I wanted to sense it, feel it, drink it in with my eyes. Moreover I wanted to stand in front of that painting which the book said was part of a collection of western art near the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. So in the mid 90s we booked a fly drive and I took the car east across the Rockies to Denver, checked into the Brown Palace that night and, bright and early next morning, sauntered out of the hotel to where the gallery was supposed to be and – no gallery, no collection, no picture….apparently the whole project had been closed a few months before and the paintings scattered to the four corners of America.

So I have never seen the painting.

But we did see the landscape. We have driven all around Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. First year we drove from Flagstaff to Bluff, Utah and alongside Monument Valley and I saw it for real.

A few days later we drove to Moab and I stood at Grand View Point in Canyonlands – thinner and with more hair than now – and wanted time to freeze for ever……

….and I so much want to return.

Thank you, Maynard Dixon….

BTW – a few years later we did see many of his paintings at a glorious exhibition mounted at Brigham Young University…..but that painting, sadly, wasn’t there…..

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