Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Morte D'Arthur

Christmas lunch over, the Queen listened too. A near full moon is directly lighting my study. Was it last night on BBC1 Merlin 13/13? The Morte D'Arthur and Life on Mars for music. I could enjoy time with David Bowie (the Norfolk Broads (home of Albion) are in the lyrics). Was'nt the end of BBC's Merlin so clever? Lorries in Avalon. An ambition for 2013, take daughter to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and to Glastonbury. Understand our national myths (Christ's little holiday here). Could a new royal baby be called Arthur? I rather hope not, not recommended as on message, but what if the Kingdom is broken? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsS9s1t3_i8

A Christmas Day Review

A Christmas day review: The Queen saying in five minutes all you need to know about Christmas. Her Christianity is no threat to another's religion save in the revelation that Christ's God is not about power but service. The Archbishop of Canterbury had suitable humility, expressed over the women's bishops vote. The Pope praying in detail on a global scale for Peace. Amen to that. The Archbishop of Westminster OUCH. Let's hit below the belt when our paunches are full of stuffing. When will those Catholics who Amen him (not all do) GET IT? We're beyond Gay bashing or we should be. And where are my particular Christmas prayers? For a family tragically killed on the M6 earlier today and for all emergency and service workers who have to work today but especially for the many railwaymen struggling over the holiday to get it all back to work. We remember you.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Chrildren killed in Newtown

The beginning and end of a Facebook discussion. My comments


If you wish to be known as a civilised nation YOU WILL maintain strict gun control laws. That is my British view.
 As has been noted mine is a British perspective. Somewhere above is the statement " to protect the citizenry from an oppressive government.". It would appear that to protect American citizens from the danger of Messrs Reagan, Bush, and Obama it is worth the death of a lot of littles ones. Are those names so much worse than Thatcher, Blair and Cameron. I might disagree with all three but I would rather have the British version of gun control (with the tragedies we have had as well) than the American version. That is my heart felt take and I will prophesy two things 1) most folk in Britain will agree and 2) at the present rate there will come a point where our American cousins "get it". You cannot lead the free world and allow this to continue. It does not wash.
and a new tack on the theme

For freedom to work, willing sacrifices have to be made. On this planet true freedom cannot be a free for all. However such sacrifices should never include innocent children!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Better by far (than a Quality Bus Contract)

A new arrival in our library this week is Better by Far. Those who follow public transport in the North East will know a major topic by Nexus in 2012 is the investigation into whether a Quality Bus Contract should be developed in Tyne & Wear and beyond. Nexus have the powers to do this, if they do it, it will be pretty much a first. It has led to heated debate in the papers (work back through the blog). On Wednesday night I attended a presentation by Nexus about the idea made to the Prudhoe Community Partnership Transport Working Group. Everyone remained very polite and pleasant but the fault lines were evident. In addition to Nexus and local folk there was representation from Go North East, Northumberland County Council and in a private capacity as a resident, the Metrocentre's Sustainable Transport Manager.

Key points made from the Nexus side. The QBC will remove the free market within the Nexus boundaries, the Tyne & Wear ITA will receive fare revenue and reinvest it in the system, in January 2013 the Tyne & Wear councillors who make up the ITA are likely to decide whether to pursue a contract or a voluntary partnership with operators.

Currently some 90%+ of the Tyne and Wear bus network runs commercially. The rest is specified and tendered by the PTE. This means most of the network is not a burden on the tax payer (unlike the Metro and local rail). Operators can with six weeks notice vary the network and they do in response to changing markets and community requests.

This flexibility will be lost with a QBC and an additional layer of bureaucracy which somehow has to be paid for inserted. Will there be money to reinvest or will we outside Tyne & Wear be dragged into paying for the massively loss making Metro which is entirely inside Tyne & Wear? On these grounds alone I am far more persuaded of the value of Partnerships as this booklet develops. But there is more to it than that.

Tyne & Wear is unusual. Only a relatively limited amount of the network remains within its boundaries. Some 60% I think crosses outside into Northumberland, Durham, even to Tees-side and Cumbria. The current Nexus plan takes this all over and the legislation allows that. So in Prudhoe on the boundary with Gateshead, the 10 group, the 686 and 684, all our stage services would become Nexus ones. Maybe we would then get proper bus stops. Perhaps. That is a good thing but is it a price worth paying?

At present the QBC will be run by a new board and we heard tell that one member would represent Durham and Northumberland. Even if it is one each, it is no good. Northumberland and Durham cannot become bit actors to Tyne and Wear and billed for the result. I very much hope (and I think that I believe this) that wisdom will follow and that a major fracas between three authorities will be avoided.

Is there any good to this debate? Not much I feel; it has become a huge diversion from a much more important one: who runs the North-East's rail network after 2014? Perhaps the good that will come from all this is that Nexus and neighbouring authorities will accept that Nexus cannot avoid regional relationships but that the proper area to show leadership on this is with the rail services run out of Heaton depot in the centre of Nexus land.

Somewhere someone from Nexus has rather dismissively said of my comments that rail travel only represents 1% of public transport use in Tyne & Wear. Do I believe that? Even if it were true should it be true? Did that figure include or exclude the Metro? Do not Washington and Ashington deserve to be on the rail network? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Quartet & Nativity 2

Last night the three of us were in the Forum Cinema Hexham seeing two films one after the other! First off was Nativity 2 at 4pm followed by the live broadcast of the preview screening from the Odeon in London of a new BBC Film Quartet. Billy Connolly et al on stage to take questions. Nativity 2 is a Christmas film from Debbie Isitt. Quartet is the first film Dustin Hoffmann has directed and explores advanced old age from the viewpoint of four once famous concert musicians now in an benevolent home in the Thames Valley for musicians. It has to be said it was a pretty spectacular home and the doctor in charge was spectacularly attractive herself (Sherridan Smith).

There was considerable fantasy present in Quartet as Billy Connolly pointed out on stage. There was even more fantasy in Nativity 2.  Although each was at opposite ends of the life spectrum, both shared a lot. Essentially they celebrate human optimism and hope in the face of what some would call "the bleeding obvious" (accent on bleeding). They are both very enjoyable films although your children may find the 12A Quartet somewhat challenging. The presence of Hogwarts stars like Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon should ease things. And how about Andrew Sachs from Fawlty Towers?

In advance someone had said Nativity 2 was even more unbelievable than Nativity the original (which original?). At one level it certainly is, although the transport me was thrilled to see a London Duck Tours DUKW at work in a Welsh reservoir. Regard it perhaps not as a film but as a play (think even of turning it into a play). And then not as a play but as a Mystery Play. That is a way to look at both films and certainly Nativity 2. I wonder if Isitt intended this? I think her achievement is masterful. To get all the songs delivered, to get the children to deliver all that was being asked, top notch. The same goes for Quartet and all its music and wistful autumnal filming around Taplow.

But both are considerably more than technical accomplishment and this is the Mystery Play connect. We know they are not believable, reality does not do this (quite). But in both, our creativity latches onto the myth because it connects with the deepest human desire. We want a happy outcome and we want to be loved. Something in our nature says this is our destiny and that to deny it is an ultimate misery. So we make stories about this.

In short both films (intentionally or not I cannot say) were profoundly Christian to me. Christ's God was alive and kicking in them. Very appropriate for Christmas. We cannot be sure of the detail of Christ's life, still less his resurrection. As a historian I think the broad outline is very believable and its message ever so simple. The simplicity of the message is in both films. Post modern Christianity should not be difficult to hack. Watch these films and ask yourself that question.