28 June 2016

Kefalonia

Kefalonia or Cephalonia - choose your own spelling - is a pretty big island. With a land area of 302 square miles, it is twice as big as The Isle of Wight which lies off Britain's south coast. In my travels, I have visited more than twenty of Greece's many islands but never before Kefalonia. 

In recent years, one of its main claims to fame has been its association with Louis de Bernieres' brilliant  best-selling novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" which was turned into a mediocre film in 2001. 

I don't know how much of the island we will get to see in the week ahead. Our chosen hotel is in a remote and quiet location on the south coast. If the pound doesn't tumble any further I expect we will hire a car for three days and use it to  see more of Kefalonia than the little corner occupied by our hotel. There are beaches, mountains, farming villages, ancient archaeological sites, olive groves, old men with donkeys and old women with black shawls. Plenty of photo opportunities.

This may come as bad news to you but I shall be taking this laptop on holiday and with good wi-fi promised, I expect to compose some holiday blogposts. We will  be flying away quite early on Wednesday morning. 

27 June 2016

Climbing

Over the Rivelin Dam wall and across the A57 Manchester road. Then along a winding path that led beneath birch trees. It was fringed with new bracken, burgeoning green. After ten minutes, Rivelin Rocks began to appear through the trees. As luck would have it, my chosen track took me straight to a millstone pinnacle called The Rivelin Needle. Here you can see it towering above the trees. 
Two young men had just finished climbing it. One of them was Swedish. They had several ropes, clips and steel carabinas. I talked with them for a little while and then headed further along the rocks where I encountered two young climbers from Barnsley tackling a route called Auto da Fe. Apparently there are 242 defined climbing routes at Rivelin Rocks.
It was a challenging climb. The young man on the bottom end of the rope was struggling to find hand and footholds he could have faith in. I sensed his uncertainty though his friend at the top had already mastered this particular rock face.
It takes a particular kind of person to fall in love with rock climbing. It never appealed to me but I can appreciate why others might enjoy it. Patience and daring. Muscle and mind. Becoming one with the rock. Even so it is an inherently dangerous activity.

I carried on to a place where I could scramble up to the open fields above Rivelin Rocks. Then I walked along to Ronksley Lane, noticing a brown hare sitting still in one of those summery meadows. It raised its ears like radar receivers and then darted off. After all, not only do we human beings seek danger, we also reek of it.

25 June 2016

Love

He saw her at the fruit counter. She winked at him. The attraction was mutual. There were plenty of other bananas, curvy pears and juicy melons but as soon as he saw her he knew she was "the one". Slender and shapely beneath her tight yellow outfit that fitted her like a skin.

Swallowing hard, he plucked up a kernel of courage and sidled over to her. Coquettishly, she fluttered her eyelashes and he felt his heart racing. They exchanged names and telephone numbers and he promised to call her at the weekend. She was not averse to the idea of a date - possibly because the bananas' usual supermarket position was adjacent to a shelf bearing sweet Egyptian dates.

On Sunday afternoon they met in the park - next to the Victorian bandstand. They walked by the duck pond and were soon exchanging sweet nothings. He was enchanted by the tone of her voice and with keen admiration she noticed his designer watch by Fyffes. She thought he was very handsome.

In the days that followed they had potassium rich meals together, went to the cinema to watch Woody Allen's 1971 film - "Bananas" and to cut a long story short they found themselves growing closer. The night of the cinema trip, they cuddled in the street below her apartment. They kissed and then a little nervously, she invited him up for coffee. He sensed that she was feeling fruity.

One thing led to another and when the morning came he woke in her bed beneath a red blanket, his head resting on a soft blue pillow. She was still asleep, her left arm thrown with gay abandon across his muscular chest. Awkwardly, he reached for his Marlboros and lit one up. With his right arm tucked behind his head, he drew in the woody smoke and smiled inwardly, patiently waiting for her to stir. It was the very start of love.

The photo that appears at the top of this post was first published in a homely and little known Welsh blog entitled "Going Gently" in relation to the world famous Trelawnyd Flower Show and more specifically its novelty fruit and veg photo category.

24 June 2016

Leave

There are lots of reasons why Britain has voted to leave The European Union. It seems to me that the "Remain" campaign was smug and often condescending, The leader of The Labour Party's voice was as indistinct as that of a squeaking mouse. The Etonian prime minister's arguments appeared rehearsed and unconvincing as he deflected legitimate questions about economic migrants.

Though I voted "remain", I really did not like the way the "remain" campaign unfolded with orchestrated voices from people who should have been studiously quiet - including Tony Blair, John Major, Barack Obama, Jean Claude Junker, Mark Carney (Governor of the Bank of England) and Angela Merkel. And then we heard our odious Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne threatening an austerity budget if  "Leave" won. None of this sat well with ordinary people.

The influence of Rupert Murdoch's News International group  should also not be underestimated. His awful "Sun" newspaper has a habit of promoting winners and this was its front page yesterday as voters went to the polls:-
To be fair to the leavers, I recognise that  the performance of the European Union has raised many serious questions about continent-wide legislation, answerability, the free movement of labour and the inequitable distribution of funds. As the years have passed, the influence of Brussels and Strasbourg has increased and there seems to have been a badly hidden agenda to pull up the poorer countries at the expense of wealthier nations like Great Britain.

The fallout from Britain's "Brexit" vote has only just begun but the ripples will radiate out well into the future. In the meantime, just last night I booked a week's holiday on the Greek island of Kefalonia. We are going next Wednesday and now I am kicking myself for not buying a wad of euros earlier in the week. The pound tumbled last night but hopefully it will pick up before we fly away. We will be staying at The Karavados Beach Hotel which is pictured below. There we can relax, soak up the sun, swim, read books and hopefully forget about "Brexit" for a few days.

23 June 2016

Cross

It's a hot, overcast day and I have just come home from the local methodist church which acts as our neighbourhood polling station. You can see the ballot paper above. I put my cross in the "Remain" box.

Normally, where human beings are concerned, ballot papers list candidates in alphabetical order. However, in this instance you can see that the two simple options are not presented in alphabetical order. Surely, "Leave" should have been above "Remain" as "L" comes before "R" in the alphabet.

I don't know if any studies have been done into the psychology of voting habits vis-à-vis the order of choices on a ballot paper but I would guess that it is advantageous to be at the top of the pile. On this ballot paper, "Leave" looks like second best but if normal alphabetical ordering had been employed, "Leave" would have been imbued with primary status.

This is important as up to yesterday, many thousands of voters had not made up their minds. Some even said that they would decide at the polling station.

Another thing I am thinking about this referendum is that "Remain" appears like a vote for the status quo whereas "Leave" seems more rebellious - kicking against the system and there are many people in our society who are drawn to that kind of response. I should know because I am normally one of them.

It will  certainly be interesting to see how things pan out as the votes are counted through the night ahead and into tomorrow morning.

21 June 2016

Donald

This morning I enjoyed a long walk in The Rivelin Valley, just west of Sheffield. I followed a public footpath up to Lawns Farm where I noticed a small herd of brown cows. From a distance, one particular cow caught my eye. It appeared to have something hanging from its neck - perhaps a tracking device or a cow bell.

But as I drew closer, I realised that the appendage was part of the cow's anatomy. I took out my faithful camera and zoomed in to get these shots:-
Now in my rambles I have seen thousands of dairy cows but never before have I seen a beast with a dangly swelling as in the case of this unfortunate animal. It must be an awful hindrance to her endless grazing and perhaps there's some associated physical pain. I don't know.

I tried to use "Google" to find out what the swinging throat ball might be but failed miserably. Perhaps you might be able to help - especially if you have had some veterinary training or you know a dairy farmer. Possibly the unusual thingamabob has no name and if that is the case I hereby christen it  a "donald" in honour of the Republican presidential candidate over in America.

Oh, by the way, this is a photo I snapped later of  Lawns Farm  from high on the opposite side of The Rivelin Valley. You can just make out part of the little herd to the left of the farm:-

20 June 2016

Referendum

On Thursday, Britain's polling stations will be open. Regarding our membership of The European Union we will either put crosses in the "Remain" or "Leave" boxes or draw a cartoon... possibly of a sheep.

It is not entirely clear why we are even having this referendum. I guess it came about because of anti-European rumblings in the ranks of the Conservative Party. Having the referendum was meant to appease all those "Daily Mail" readers. I saw their leader on the television last night - David Cameron. He was fielding questions from members of the public and he appeared to be floundering. He looks older, less bullish, unconvincingly trotting out the same, tired arguments.

There are things about The European Union that baffle me and most of my fellow citizens. What began as an economic trading alliance appears to have morphed into something different. It is a political juggernaut which seems to have an uncontrollable momentum of its own, like a prehistoric brontosaurus stomping over our continent. In Brussels and Strasbourg, highly paid Eurocrats congratulate themselves about their cleverness and importance.
I am drawn to "Remain" but I wish that the champions of "Remain" would talk about the reforms they intend to press for. Many of them try to avoid the "i" word - immigration. It has become a huge concern to ordinary Britons. Many communities are utterly changed. To me, it is not just an economic matter. Not everything is about jobs and balance sheets. I used to live in a country where everybody knew what a maypole was, where everyone knew that a 99 was a vanilla ice cream  with a "Flake" pushed in it, where we all knew the most popular Christmas carols, where we knew what the years 1066 and 1666 meant to our people. It's not like that now. And if you dare to dig into immigration matters you are likely to invite accusations of racism and intolerance.

Nonetheless, it's "remain" for me. "Leave" is filled with uncertainty and its champions are dangerous dorks with whom I have no affinity - Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove for example. All odious ego trippers.

In contrast, our lovely Yorkshire rose, the murdered MP Jo Cox was strongly behind the "Remain" campaign. Only the weekend before her cruel death, she was pictured in an inflatable dingy on The Thames with her husband and small children and as it sped mischievously through the choppy waters near The House of Parliament its large flag fluttered in the wind, bearing a single word - "IN".

Nobody knows what the outcome will be or significantly what percentage of the electorate will even vote but in  memory of Jo Cox, for stability and togetherness I shall be giving "Remain" my cross. We have come so far in The European Union that "Leave" seems far too drastic and it increasingly looks like the gateway to Narnia.