Sunday, September 21, 2014

Going Underground

We remain a United Kingdom but I'm not entirely convinced it feels that way anymore.

What I find somewhat bizarre is people of visibly non-Scottish antecedence, promoting independence, which rather begs the question of what Scotland or being Scottish actually is in a modern world? After all, I'm part Scots, English, Belgian and Norwegian and I'm sure that genetically, most of my readers also share an interesting mix, as well as in the case of a great many English people having a 10% Italian marker gene, inherited from the Roman legions. It all seems rather irrelevant in a global economy; to me at least. I enjoyed Braveheart like anyone else but that's where my imagination stopped.

St Regis Abu Dhabi
I thought I would share the picture opposite. It's the private tunnel leading from my hotel in Abu Dhabi, across and under the big main road.

This rather reminded me of the stories of Nero's Golden Palace in Rome. Here you have a subway decorated in the finest marble and polished like a mirror, with no expense spared. At a time when here we worry over the minimum wage and austerity, it's a reminder of what wealth and conspicuous consumption can look like elsewhere, where money is no object and street litter simply doesn't exist.

I had a call last week from the BBC. Apparently they have a political reporter moving down to Thanet to live in advance of next May's General Election and of course it's South Thanet which is the focus of their interest.

The 'Beeb' had been trawling this weblog and I pointed then at several local characters whom I 'm sure would also be happy to offer an opinion on the local political scene.

What is without doubt however, is that the lives, familiies and personal histories of all the political candidates; not just Nigel Farage, are going to be under intense scrutiny between now and next May. If there's even a hint of any skeleton in the cupboard or even a minor indiscretion at secondary school, the BBC or quite possibly The Sun and the Daily Mail are going to be looking for it with chequebooks poised. Quite why anyone would be prepared to put themselves through what is yet to come, for a poorly remunerated role on a Westminster back-bench, defies understanding.

Manston airport is firmly back on the agenda again with last week's visit from Cabinet Minister, Grant Shapps.  With Scotland and the powerful SNP influence of Mrs Gloag, now firmly behind us, I really do think there's a chance for the airport but if and only if the Council rallies behind a CPO and a suitable partner to achieve it. That said, I fear that Labour, with an eye to picking-up any and every possible vote in Ramsgate for Will Scobie, next May, may prevaricate as long as possible and Manston may yet become a political victim of Nigel Farage's ambition in the town.

I would like to be proved wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Whistle-stop Tour

Independence Square in Kiev
Back from my recent travels, after an epic five hour journey, by train, from Heathrow to Westgate, yesterday afternoon. Thanks to South-Eastern trains, racing for a timetabled train that did not exist and then discovering engineering works between Gillingham and Faversham, with a replacement bus service, which stank of cannabis, with several of my fellow travellers, straight out of a Monty Python movie.

A Mother's Vigil
Anyway, having landed at Heathrow at 2:20 PM, I finally arrived home at 7:50 PM, a little faster than the equally dramatic and fun-filled eleven hour journey, last month, between Wolverhampton and home after I delivered an aircraft to RAF Cosford.

I thought I might share a few of my photos from the last week, so here they are.

Two of these may be of passing interest. The first, in monochrome, is, I'm told, of a mother, who sits on the same spot every day, where here son was shot dead by the President's snipers in Kiev's Independence Square last winter. Very sad.

Air Strike?
The second, was taken passing Irbil in Kurdistan. I knew, from the news that there was a fight to recover the strategic dam, inside Iraq, this last month, from ISIL and so when I saw where we were on the moving map, I took a look over towards the Iraq border and was surprised to see three artillery or air-strikes taking place, one after the other.. Here's one in the photo.

The last photo is of the opulent foyer of the five star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, where the evening temperature was 41 degrees Celsius when I landed.

You don't check in to a hotel like this in the conventional sense. Instead, relax in a magnificent ante-room, while the staff check you in and attend to any baggage or special guest requests you might make and if you wish to have your own 'Butler' assigned then it's an option; rather like the BBC's programme on the famous Taj hotel in Mumbai.

It was rather nice, momentarily imagining life was really like this, for three pampered days, before I sped off to Istanbul and then to Kiev to do another job and from there, into the almost predictable  hands of South-eastern trains for the long journey home.

St Regis Hotel Abu Dhabi