22 July 2012

Boy, have we got a bumper edition for you this week – lousy weather and the optimistic prediction from the BBC (so it must be true) that it will all change in time for the Olympics, a technological misfortune, freedom for the Naked Rambler and a trio of farcical Government mishaps – the Olympic security disaster, misguided cuts to flood defence programmes and the collapse of the Education Secretary’s “Flagship” Free Academy.

Well, so much for the accuracy of the St Swithun’s Day weather prediction. Allegedly, if it rains on St Swithun’s Day it will continue for the next forty days; if it’s fine it will stay fine for a similar period. Last Sunday was St Swithun’s Day and, in our neighbourhood at any rate, it was fine – no rain and a smattering of sun and blue skies. So, you will be as surprised as we were that it poured on Monday and has continued to rain off and on for most of the week.

An article I read explains why the weather on St Swithun’s Day is generally a fairly accurate predictor of the weather to come.

Whoever told the story about the St. Swithun’s day saying was obviously well aware that summer weather patterns establishing by the beginning to the middle of July tend to be persistent throughout the coming few weeks. In fact this is statistically true in 7 to 8 out of 10 years.

The article even explains the impact of the position of the jet stream which has been much in the news over this dismally depressing damp spell. So the likelihood is that this summer is simply going to be a complete washout which is in interesting contrast to an article on the BBC web site on Wednesday.

Jet stream changes may bring warmer weather to the UK

Apparently, according to the BBC at any rate, the jet stream is “likely to change course soon” which will bring more normal summer weather “probably in time for the Olympics.” Given that I’ve not found any convincing explanation as to why the jet stream has moved in the first place, how they are able to so convincingly predict a movement back to its normal position in time for the Olympics is a mystery to me. More likely, it seems to me, it is an attempt to provide some “good news” to take people’s minds off (a) the lousy weather, (b) the banking scandals (c) the lousy weather (d) the security mess at the Olympics (e) the lousy weather, (f) the lousy economy and, not forgetting (g) the lousy weather. We’ll have to see if it compares with the prediction a year or so ago that we were going to enjoy a “BBQ Summer” which, of course, never materialised.

Speaking, as we were, of the miserable weather, the rain played a part, I suspect, in our most recent technological outage – a branch from the elm tree out front, laden with wet leaves, came down on Sunday taking out our telephone line. No telephone, no internet, quelle merde!  Immediately I got on the phone to BT (British Telecom) who is responsible for maintaining all of the telephone infrastructure in the UK. Unfortunately, they told me that they were unable to do anything about a telephone line lying on the ground across the road because we don’t actually take our telephone or broadband service from BT; I was supposed to ring our telephone and/or broadband provider and get them to report the issue.

I explained that the line was down and was lying across the main road obstructing traffic (I did have to exaggerate the extent of the problem – it wasn’t actually obstructing traffic; it was merely lying on the road and the traffic was quite happily driving over it). Reluctantly, they took my details and assured us that an engineer would be out to fix it sometime in the next four to twenty-four hours.

Twenty-four hours later and there was still no sign of the BT engineer so I did then ring our telephone provider and explained that the line was down and that, therefore, we had no telephone or broadband. Naturally, my word was insufficient to initiate action; the support technician explained that he needed to carry out a number of line checks. You will be as amazed as I was that the line check revealed that we had no dial tone. When he suggested that I check all the extensions to make sure I hadn’t left a phone off the hook I “calmly” explained, “The telephone line is lying on the ground in the middle of the road. I’m not surprised you’re not getting a dial tone!” Oh, in that case, he told me, someone will be out to fix it sometime in the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours.

Later on Monday afternoon a BT engineer turned up and informed us that he was there to fix one of the three telephone lines that comes across the road and into the house (our phone, Penny’s business line and the phone in the Annexe). It seems that since I had reported the fault and given our details, that was the only fault he was authorised to repair – the other two would require a fresh incident report. A calm, quiet discussion ensued until he eventually agreed to fix all three lines and later that afternoon our connection to the modern world was successfully restored.

It’s amazing how losing connectivity is somewhat akin to having an arm chopped off (not that I’ve ever had an arm chopped off, mind you). It seems as if one is terribly handicapped without access to the internet and/or telephone these days. I was able to collect and respond to e-mail with my cell phone but not much else – surfing the web on a phone is almost a wholly unsatisfactory experience.

What a contrast to our lives all those years ago when the boys were young – we didn’t even have a telephone in the house until soon after Adam was born (and only three channels on the television).

Olympic security forces deployedYou will remember I wrote last week about the failure of the privatised company contracted to provide security for the Olympics necessitating the deployment of off-duty police officers and soldiers fresh back from a tour in Afghanistan. I am grateful to one of Nick’s friends, Huw Bowen, for sharing this photograph of some newly recruited security personnel being deployed in London. (Our English readers will recognise them immediately but, for those of you who don’t, they are Daleks, a fictional extra-terrestrial race of mutants from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who). I understand that the next security-related announcement will be to let us know that the Muppets have signed on as well.

As well as the security farce at the Olympics, the government continues to score a plethora of “own goals.” The latest involves the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spellman. When the Coalition came to power you will remember that their number one priority was to cut the deficit. Reducing the deficit necessitated significant cuts to public expenditure. It seems that Ms Spellman, keen to make a positive impression in government, was ready, willing and eager to have the Environment Department’s budget cut and she “offered” the Chancellor a reduction of 30%. In order to achieve that saving a whole raft of flood prevention measures were axed. Now that we’ve had rain and floods for the past several months it looks like the cost of not implementing the flood prevention measures will match or even overtake the savings that were achieved. Oh dear.

I’ve written in the past couple of issues that the Education Secretary’s pet scheme of Free Schools is looking increasingly dodgy – schools are being funded in areas where they are neither needed nor wanted and he has buried a report which suggests that the scheme he axed on coming into Government actually achieved better results than his Free Schools. This week comes the news that his “Flagship” Free School, the Newham Free Academy has collapsed only weeks before it was due to open, apparently because, “there was too little demand from parents.” Oh dear, oh dear.

Finally, news that the Naked Rambler has been released from prison in Scotland and, this time, the authorities have decided not to re-arrest him immediately. An article on the BBC web site and one in the Guardian provide more details.

[Update: Stephen Gough has been re-arrested, three days after being released from prison in Perth. He had walked about 30 miles before upsetting the locals and allegedly causing a “breach of the peace” which led to his being re-arrested in Townhill, Dunfirmline. At an average cost of £41,000 per year to keep someone in prison, his incarceration has cost the taxpayers in the region of £246,000 (so far). Haven’t we got better ways to spend our money? Just a thought.)

And finally, finally – Le Tour finishes today with the procession into Paris. It’s been a great bike race this year most notably because a Brit, Bradley Wiggins, is poised to win. These guys are absolutely amazing.

And finally, finally, finally, the following I picked up on a friend’s Facebook page which I found amusing, even if it is a bit crude for my mother. I will remember it when/if I am next stopped for exceeding the speed limit.


And finally, finally, finally, finally, I couldn’t let the story of the Olympic torch bearer, who had a tattoo to (permanently) mark the occasion, pass without at least alerting you to it. You can read the details and see a video here.

Love to you all,



2 thoughts on “22 July 2012”

  1. I feel it only fair to mention that every cloud (ha-ha) has a silver lining since Greg got through a pile of ironing a mile high and hoovered the entire house using every possible utensil provided by Mr Dyson on the day he had no broadband. Blow winds blow is all I can say!!

  2. Dear Greg,
    God, I love your Blogs! What humor in your comments, on weather, government, phone outages, naked hikers, etc.. I don’t yet surf enough to pick up the humorous, the idiotic, etc.
    Karen, David and I experienced a phone outage when we arrived at Lake George to open the,house. It lasted a week, and nearly drove Karen nuts, trying to coordinate workers. Actually, David (Karen’s friend) is pretty computer/iPhone savvy. He got us connected to the outer world via his iPhone out at the end of the Bluff Head road (reduced mountain interference) and they were able to get some coordination started.
    Just a lovely thought- what if hackers were to shut down an entire country’s phone or Internet service. Prepare for Cave Dwelling. Maybe the Naked Hiker is on the right track! Nothing funny in that thought. Ah well, maybe the solar flares are messing up my brain! Love, Bunny W.

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