October 30, 2004

Barons and Witches

Some of the last feudal powers in Scotland are due to be abolished next month. Barons will no longer have the right to dispense justice on their lands. What is the world coming to? On November 28, the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act 2000 enters into full force and legal effect. Why the effective date was set four years after the passage of the Act, I don't know.

Prior to the passage of the Act, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of barons was preserved by the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746. The criminal jurisdiction was restricted to cases of "assaults, batteries and smaller crimes". Punishments were limited to a fine of up to £1 or confinement in the stocks for up to three hours in the daytime. The civil jurisdiction was limited to cases with a value of up to £2 and cases for the recovery of "rents or other dues of a like nature."

So you might thing this is much ado about nothing. It's quaint; it's historic; it's Scottish. Oh no, the Government takes these things very seriously. The Scottish Office's "Report on Abolition of the Feudal System", which provides the basis for the Act, states, "A privately owned criminal and civil jurisdiction, even if limited and fallen into disuse, is such an anachronistic and objectionable relic of feudalism that it must clearly be abolished. The jurisdictional rights of barons have no value and compensation for their abolition would be inappropriate and unnecessary." So they have no value but they must clearly be abolished.

The last baronial judicial act is set for tomorrow. The 14th Baron Prestoungrange will be issuing a public declaration of pardon to the 81 people and their cats executed for witchcraft in his barony in the 16th and 17th centuries. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland was in 1727.

According to the findings of the the Court, “Most of those persons condemned for witchcraft within the jurisdiction of the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun were convicted on the basis of spectral evidence – that is to say, prosecuting witnesses declared that they felt the presence of evil sprits or heard spirit voices.

“Such spectral evidence is impossible to prove or to disprove nor is it possible for the accused to cross-examine the spirit concerned. One is convicted upon the very making of such charges without any possibility of offering a defence.”

This, I think, is a good thing. Don't get me wrong. Clearly, practicing witchcraft is a capital offence. Every Christian nation (before the influence of the humanist so-called "Enlightenment") had no problem following the plain wording of the Bible in this regard. But if you can't apply the biblical standard of evidence (corroborating eye witnesses), you can't apply the biblical sanction.

It is probably for this reason that in pre-Reformation Scotland executions for witchcraft were almost unknown. After the Reformation, it has been alleged that as many as 3,500 people were killed in the witch hunts.

Witchcraft is increasing in poularity in Scotland just as everywhere else. Witches (or Pagans or Wiccans) openly declare themselves. But now the Baronial courts won't even be able to give them three hours in the stocks.

Posted by david at 01:53 PM | Comments (2)

Usurping Usury

One of the big stories in the news over here, other than the US Presidential elections, is that a court actually said that it was possible for a loan agreement to "grossly contravene the ordinary principles of fair dealing."

For my American readers this may sound strange. After all, in this age of consumer credit protection, there are restrictions on how lenders can swindle money out of borrowers. There are caps on the level of interest that can be charged. Even department store credit cards top out at less than 25% APR.

This is not the case in the UK. What prompted the judge at Liverpool County Court to make the above statement as he wiped out the remaining debt of Tony and Michelle Meadows? The Meadows had borrowed £5,750. After paying back about £25,000 they still owed £384,000. No, there is no typo there. They borrowed about $11,000. They paid about $50,000. They still owed about $750,000. The Mafia was not involved.

The case was in court because London North Securities, which bought the original note from Home Loan Northern, was seeking a repossession order on the Meadows' home. The Meadows had gone to Home Loan Northern to borrow £2,000 for a home improvement loan. They were persuaded to borrow an extra £3,000 to pay off their mortgage and then charged £750 for an insurance policy they didn't want. They missed payments, so the 34.9% APR began to accrue against the late payment penalties, interest, and legal fees. Even though they managed to fork out £25,000, they could never get ahead.

Loan companies like Home Loan Northern are reaping windfalls like this by preying on the poor and those with bad credit. But at 34.9%, Home Loan Northern isn't even in the same league as Provident Personal Credit. Provident sends agents door to door, particularly in council estates, hard selling loans. They've yet to find a poor person they can't make poorer still.

At this point, my American readers may need to sit down. Provident offers a credit card. The annual percentage rate is 152.3%. Unbelievably, the rate for their specialty, cash loans, is even higher. They lend money at 177% APR. I am not making this up. I am using their own numbers, openly published on their website.

You can see now why this ruling in Liverpool has rocked the country. It has no precedential value. No other judge is bound by it. It has, however, broken the ice. In commenting upon the case, the presiding judge at Central London County Court said that other judges might be encouraged to make similar decisions. The Government, which has repeatedly shelved interest-capping consumer credit legislation, may actually want to do something now.

Posted by david at 02:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2004

Living in a Caravan

After a long half-term, I needed a change of scenery. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this possibility and booked a holiday in Scotland. Admittedly, most people do not book holidays for late October in Scotland, particularly if they are hoping to spend some time in the sun. However, Mrs H had never been north of the border and I hadn't been there for 12 years, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

We had been made aware of a special offer in the Daily Express with British Holidays, who run caravan parks across the country. As this is not a common mode of vacation in the States, perhaps I should explain. In this country, there is a proliferation of holiday parks. They consist of a huge expanse of trailer houses ("static caravans" in the local parlance) which are rented on a weekly basis (or in cases of short breaks such as ours, four nights). It is a good thing that tornados are a rarity in the UK. The park also includes various amenties, such as children's areas and nightly live entertainment.

According to the offer in the Express, we could get four nights for £38. Wow! What a deal! We had to specify four choices of location in order of preference. We collected our coupons from the newspaper and sent off our cheque. We got all the information back about our allocated park, including all of the additional charges. There was the £4 per night for gas and electric. There was the £20 each for the entertainment passes, which apparently were required even if we didn't want to be entertained. We had to pay a deposit for linen. If we wanted heat in the bedrooms it would be an additional £60! We declined. We discovered that our promotional deal was the same as the regular off-season rate for the park to which we were allocated.

Eventually our £38 holiday became a £80 holiday and they kept trying to sell us more extras. £80 would only get us an old caravan. If we wanted a newer model that didn't have dog hair everywhere, it would be an additional £20. We declined. We were repeatedly assured however, that we would be given a handicap-equipped trailer.

The park office closes promptly at 5:00, so we were told that if we would be late, we needed to ring ahead to arrange to pick up the keys. We did and eventually tracked down the person with the keys and found the trailer. It was an interesting first night.

Despite our £4, there was no gas. The fire in the living room would light but not emit any heat. The gas stove wouldn't even light. Thus there was no means of cooking dinner. Not that you could really see to cook, because the light in the kitchen was out. The temperature in the lowlands of Scotland that night was in the low single digits Celsius. Not only was there no heat in the bedrooms - the covers were light summer duvets.

Then there was the bathroom. It included a shower with the deep lip on the door and no means of support. Not exactly designed with a cripple in mind.

They replaced the gas bottle early in the morning before we got up. When Mrs H went to complain about the situation, the woman was not particularly sympathetic to our plight. Despite representations on the telephone to contrary, handicap facilities are not available on promotional offers. Never mind that we were, in fact, paying the full rate. When Mrs H insisted that I at least needed a stool on which to sit and balance, they delivered an apholstered stool which must have come from the bar in the entertainment "complex".

I have to say that my first experience of a British caravan holiday (as opposed to camping with a motor home or travel trailer in the States) was enlightening. I'll have more to say about other aspects of our time up north.

Posted by david at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

R & R

I'll not be blogging for the next few days. Because I won't be around to remove all the spam, I am closing comments until my return.

Posted by david at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

Comparing Education

One of my colleagues at school is also from the States. She taught there for five or six years before moving to the UK. We were talking yesterday and I asked her to compare the experience of teaching in the two countries.

The first thing she commented on was the amount of admin. Teachers in the US don't know how easy they have it, apparently. I've known American teachers to complain about paperwork and how it has grown over the years, but it would seem that for all the complaints the US gets about Kyoto, at least when it come to education, it is the more environmentally sound. I somehow knew that we were unconscionably burdened in England, but it is good to hear it from someone who has clear perspective.

I realise your mileage may very from state to state and even school district to district, but the general principles of education adminstration are roughly the same throughout the US.

The other contrast between countries was the level of resources. I think I may have mentioned this before, but students in this country for the most part do not have their own textbooks. I have classes where there is one set of books for all the classes of that year group. Sometimes they have to share two to a book. My colleague is an English teacher and in one case she has four copies of a textbook for the entire class.

Now before you start thinking lots of textbooks = lots of trees, let me introduce one word. Photocopies. The paper and reprographic industries are making a killing in British schools. Yesterday I was sorting through the mountain of paper on my desk and I filled up several large plastic trays with all of the copies that I had made for students that they didn't take with them as they were supposed to do. Every day I fill my rubbish bin with paperwork received from various sources.

But back to textbooks... It would involve much less paper to just issue them with textbooks. One reason they don't might be that the school would never get them back and if they did they might not be reuseable. British kids have absolutely no respect for property. Might be something to do with post-war socialism.

That lack of respect for property extends to my own supplies. Even though I taught every day during my training year, I was using someone else's equipment and supplies. Now that I have to manage my own resources, I have learned in the first half-term just how tightly I have to control access to supplies, especially marker pens. If they can get them, they will steal them.

Historically, I would have said that a British state education is superior an American one. Because students receive a qualification in each subject, they tend to have more expertise in those subjects. Because they specialise in three or four subjects between the ages of 16 and 18 and because this is not part of cumpulsory education, the education in these subjects is equavalent to at least the first year of an American university education.

Now the standards have been lowered and lowered and everyone is considered university material. The Government is now planning to change the current system to a single diploma. This will mean that everyone will need basic literacy, numeracy, and computer skills, but not much else.

Posted by david at 12:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2004

Disgusting Behaviour and Distinctive Taste

The British are great animal lovers. Unfortunately, we have more than our fair share of those people who think that animals are more important than people.

The issue of fox hunting rages on. The will of the townies in power in the House of Commons will eventually extinguish this form of pest control. They have declared it important enough to set aside the other house of Parliament to make sure they get their way. (This is a bit like the House of Representatives having the power to make laws without the Senate if the Senate refuses to agree with the House.) They love the little foxes so much that they are willing to have thousands of jobless hounds put down.

However, in the last couple of weeks, the place of the fox has been usurped by the guinea pig. This is not because there is a groundswell of public support for the gentle cavy. Rather it is the protesters who have taken the spotlight.

If you can't get anyone to take you seriously, desecrate a grave. Or worse, exhume a body and hold it hostage. Protesters have regularly harrassed Darley Oaks Farm, which breeds guinea pigs for sale to medical research facilities. In addition to the picketing, screaming and yelling outside their Staffordshire farm, the owners have long been the subject of death threats and their property is continually damaged, usually by balaclava-wearing thugs in the middle of the night. Finally, they decided to steal the remains of the mother-in-law of one of the brothers who run the farm.

I don't animal rights people at the best of times. Don't get me wrong - I like animals. I even like guinea pigs. But they have no rights. They are animals. Do we have responsibilities toward them? Sure. The Holy Scriptures are clear about this. But our responsibilities do not somehow confer rights. After all, we have responsibilities in how we farm crops as well. That doesn't mean there are crops rights.

Though the guinea pig protesters have been in the news since early this month, I mention this now because of an announcement by Peruvian researchers that after 34 years of trying, they have bred a super guinea pig. Cavies have long been a delicacy in that part of South America, but have been impractical to export. There is just not enough meat on them to make it worthwhile.

The new piggie is twice the usual size, weighing in at more than a kilo. It is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. I have never had cuy, as it is called locally, but apparently its distinctive taste is similar to rabbit.

I think they should be imported by Darley Oaks Farm, who should set up a barbeque grill every Saturday just inside their gates.

Posted by david at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004


After the longest seven weeks of my life, I don't have to come face-to-face with stroppy teenagers for 10 days.

This doesn't mean I don't have to work. I've got essays and assessments to mark. I have to plan for the next half-term. ButI don't have to give a single detention, send anyone out of class, or deal with any of those unpleasantries than feature in my day-to-day life.

Posted by david at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

On Again?

It seems the problem may have been my modem, even though the troubleshooting software denied it.

I'm back on broadband again. I hope it lasts.

Posted by david at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2004

Driving Costs Up

I seem to be reading a lot about the price of gasoline in the US and how the average price may top $2 a gallon by this weekend. I wish I could be more sympathetic, but at over $5 a gallon here, I'm afraid you have a long way to go. The equivalent of $20 today got me about a quarter of a tank. I usually spend about $75 to fill up my small car. Combine that with filling up Mrs H's car, and petrol is one of the most significant portions of our budget.

The car insurance is now due for renewal. Thankfully, we only have to insure Mrs H's car. Due to my accident-free record for many years and my age, we only pay around $750-$800 per year on a four-year-old small family car.

Road tax is another $300 per year.

Operating a motor vehicle in this country is not cheap. Necessary, given the lack of public transport. but not cheap.

Posted by david at 02:43 AM | Comments (3)

October 14, 2004

938 Years Ago Today

There aren't many positives about teaching, but one thing I never imagined was that I would be teaching about the Battle of Hastings on the anniversary thereof.

It was in the Battle of Hastings and the life of William the Conqueror generally that I found my love for history. I was a year younger than the kids to whom I'm teaching it now. I discovered it by a combination of learning about my own genealogy and picking out a book in the school library at Madison Elementary. From that time I became a budding historian.

I'm sure that I will not be able to convey my excitement to today's group. I don't think I have done so to the three other groups of Year 7s so far. I wish I could. I wish I could light the fire.

That they only get half as much history as they do English, Maths, or Science does not send the message that it is a particularly important subject. That they got even less of it at primary school didn't set a good foundation. No, everything is English, Maths, and Science. That's the Government's holy trinity of education.

So, they can communicate and calculate. Big deal. They have no idea who they are. Science tries to answer that question by telling them they are really smart monkeys. But honestly, you saw most of the kids in a secondary school, you would be convinced of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. No, the only way they can know who they are is by learning and knowing history. They are both the products of it and the source of it for succeeding (or failing) generations.

This is just one more reason the future looks as grim as when Harold looked up and saw that Norman arrow falling out of the sky.

Posted by david at 01:21 AM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2004

On Again, Off Again

Yesterday was the activation day for our broadband service.

Given our past track record, I was pessimistic about whether it had actually been activated. I connected everything up and presto! we were running at 576K. I downloaded an MP3 for school and an updated version of WinAmp. Things were going so great. Internet the way it is supposed to be.

Then after about an hour, it just died. After spending hours on the phone with customer support, it appears that we are no longer in sync with the exchange for some reason. Virgin engineers will have to run tests on the line before it is handed over to BT engineers. A BT engineer may have to come to our house to test the line. I was assured this is a worst-case scenario, but I'm sure we are a worst case.

It could take more than a week to solve the problem, but I have also been assured that we will be compensated. Yeah, right.

Posted by david at 08:47 PM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2004

Hoon's Used Subs

Back in January, I commented on the failure of the Ministry of Defence to send any equipment to the soldiers in Iraq. It may not be such a bad thing they they had to buy their own kit. Just asked the Canadian navy.

Back in 1998, the Canadians bought four Royal Navy submarines from the MoD on a lease-to-purchase plan for C$750 million. The subs had been mothballed in 1993, but the Royal Navy told the Canadians they were out of service because the MoD had decided to focus solely on nuclear subs.

The first subs were recommissioned in 2001. In 2002, the first of these left port for a planned two-week mission, but was forced to turn back after salt water seeped into a hydraulic motor. The Canadians then revealed that the second has a dent in its hull the size of a pizza, as a result of a collision that occurred before the Canadians took over the sub. The Canadian navy said cracked diesel exhaust valves on all the subs would have to be replaced.

Last year, the Canadian Defence Department said the lease-to-purchase plan for the four new subs would now cost more like C$900 million because of the structural problems discovered. This reminds me of the buy-here-pay-here used car dealers I used to sue for fraud. Apparently the MoD fixed them up just enough for the Canadians to drive them off the lot.

This week on the last of these vessels to be recommissioned, a fire broke out in the electrical equipment room during its maiden voyage under the Canadian flag. No sooner had HMS Upholder been renamed HMCS Chicoutimi and left Faslane, Scotland than it was left powerless in the middle of the Irish Sea. It is not entirely surprising, as the Chicoutimi had been stripped for parts in an attempt to get the three other submarines working. The Ottawa Citizen quoted defence documents as saying the Chicoutimi's hull was so badly affected by rust that the vessel could not dive to its usual operating depth.

And of course the MoD never misses a chance for their shoddiness to cause loss of life. The two very young children of 32-year-old Lieut. Chris Saunders will never remember their father. As always, Defence Minister Geoff Hoon takes none of the blame. "These boats were brought up to Royal Navy standards, they had undergone rigorous trials and tests," he told BBC Radio Four.

If so, what does that say of the standards of the Royal Navy? It's no wonder that Britannia no longer rules the waves. As the pictures of the Chicoutimi adrift in the sea showed, this Government has clearly given the the waves the upper hand.

Posted by david at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Short in the Tooth

The red letter days are coming fast and furious at our house right now.

This morning, Mrs H discovered that the bump on Abby's lower gum had finally broken through. She no longer has a toothless grin.

This is just in the nick of time. Forget the teaspoon of watered-down baby rice. Tonight she had five spoons of rice and 3/4 of a pear. She was so upset when the bowl was empty, Mrs H fed her the rest of the pear. She eats like she's starved.

Aidie was a good eater and now it looks like we've been blessed with two out of two. I know it is more expensive when they are happy to eat anything, but it is worth it not to have the food refusal struggles. Aidie has one friend who only ever ate expensive processed cheese for months on end.

Posted by david at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

Wee, wee, wee, wee... all the way home

It appears that we may be making some progress on the potty training front. It is embarrassing to have a child who can do phonics, geography, and astronomy, but refuses to take off his nappy. Today, Aidie has been led to believe that we are out of nappies, so he has no choice but to wear underpants. He has pull-up naptime/nighttime nappies that look like pants, so we have been able to maintain the ruse.

We went through two changes of pants and trousers, and blotted up a few spots of the carpet, but otherwise had a successful day. He even did a proper wee on the toilet and was so excited he rang Papa in the States.

His intellect still continues to amaze me. Tonight it was clear that he was able to visualise the world map in his head, as without it he was able to tell me which countries were next to others. Mrs H was stunned when she walked in the room as I asked him, "What countries is next to Portugal?" "Spain!"

I have also started connecting his phonics programme (Letterland) with his geography. Peter Puppy says /p/ in words and he could tell me that countries which start with /p/ include Portugal and Papua New Guinea. Impy Ink says /ĭ/ in words and countries that start with /ĭ/ are Italy, India, and Indonesia. You get the idea.

I am just amazed at what a complete sponge his mind is, but even more so how he is able to coordinate and collate these facts into further learning. He is almost flawlessly articulate, properly using hexasyllabic words in conversation.

This does not mean that he is always understood. When my father answered the phone tonight, he had trouble understanding the shouting rapidfire English accent on the other end of the line, "IdidaweeweeonthetoiletandIgotaWinniethePoohchocolate!"

Posted by david at 11:57 PM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2004

The World Around Us

I have previously mentioned Aidan's inherited knack for geography. We continue to "do countries" on regular basis, mostly on Saturday mornings when Mrs H tends to stay upstairs with Abby while I keep Aidie downstairs and Wednesday evenings when she goes to Slimming World (or "Fat Club" as she calls it). The list of countries he can point to and identify without prompting has increased significantly. In addition to the US (including distinguishing Alaska), UK, Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Thailand, and Australia, which he knew a couple of months ago, he now knows Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Fiji, and his favourite, Paupa New Guinea.

His favourite new country tonight is New Caledonia. As soon as Mummy came in the door, he insisted that she come in immediately and see New Caledonia.

Sometimes he still needs prompting with the initial sound for India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, France, and Iceland. He also can't quite say "Galapagos Islands", but we're working on it.

Posted by david at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

Species Cleansing

It can't be called ethnic cleansing, because it wasn't a matter of ethnicity. Every human was forceably removed from Diego Garcia. Thanks to Serge for pointing me to this scathing indictment of both US and UK long-standing foreign policy.

Posted by david at 12:22 AM | Comments (4)

October 06, 2004

The First Supper

Yesterday, Abby ate her first meal of something other than breast milk. It was baby rice in breast milk, but it's a start.

We were trying to keep her exclusively on milk until six months, as that is the received wisdom this year. Two years ago with Aidie, it was four months. As Abby kept trying to eat off of Mrs H's plate and denied this perpetually attempted to consume her fist, it was time to start the weaning process.

She got so excited by the baby rice that she was grabbing the spoon and shoving it into her mouth. I know she was wondering why it took so long to let her start eating and why we had kept this from her.

Posted by david at 11:10 PM | Comments (3)

October 04, 2004

All Things New

This week we have gotten new neighbours and a new dryer.

The former were a bit of a surprise. We had no idea the old neighbours were moving. Saturday there was a van out front and before we knew it, they were gone. It's not like we really knew them. We knew the woman's name because she put a note through the door one time when she found Bubby in her garden and returned her to her hutch. We knew her son's name from hearing her call him. We never knew the man's name. I always called him Hop-along because he is an above-the-knee amputee and doesn't wear a prosthesis.

By Saturday night, the new folks were moved in. They are an older couple from South Wales. And no sooner had they moved in, than they started digging a pond in the back garden. Since the fence between our properties is only about as tall as Aidan, this has immediately put an end to his unsupervised play in our back garden. From our patio, he could easily climb across. The new man told Mrs H that he would put a trellis on the top of the fence to keep Aidie from getting across, but we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Tonight I picked up our new dryer. We had been needing one for a long time. Our old dryer was very good at using electricity and not very good at drying clothes. It would take two hours for a moderate-sized load, unless it included towels. Towels could take all day.

With our new dryer, we have gone from an energy efficiency rating of "G" (and that could only have been when it was brand new) to "B". And it actually dries clothes.

Posted by david at 10:36 PM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2004

On Ramp to the Information Autobahn

I have applied once more for broadband. Since my last attempt there have been new assurances that it should be available to me. BT (from whom all companies must buy their bandwidth) always says this and then the engineer shows up and says, "Sorry, mate."

Tonight I was trying to listen to a song by Inuit songwriter-singer Susan Aglukark and all I could get was fits and starts. Thus I am left not knowing whether to buy one of her CDs. I can't take this narrow band stuff anymore.

I've gone with Virgin this time, so I hope their high-speed internet is more reliable than their high-speed trains.

Posted by david at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2004


As I saw the giant yellow orb, partially occluded by clouds and slung low above the horizon, I realised that summer was well and truly over. Each morning on my way to work, the sun is just a little later getting up. Each day, it makes a smaller arc across the sky. Now that the equinox has passed, the days will race into winter.

The next time I see summer again, I will be 41. It will undoubtedly be a shorter summer than the one just spent. We get so few days anyway (though we should be thankful for each one, as we deserve none of them), so how insignificant are the number of those on either side of the solstice when the daylight lasts until nearly midnight and the birds begin to sing again around 3:30? I love those summer days.

But now I need to enjoy the crispness of autumn. It, too, will only be here a short while. Sometime around Mrs H's birthday, it will still be officially autumn, but really winter. One of the only regrets I have of living in Britain is missing deer season in Texas. I missed most of it whenever I lived in Indiana, and I haven't really hunted regularly since sometime in the 80's, I suppose. But now that the Great White Hunter, my little brother, is buried a few miles from the deer lease, I'm sure I would go more often just to attempt in vain to recapture the days of my youth. And I realise that this autumn is one more that will pass without so much as loading a 30-30 cartridge into the chamber of my Model 94.

I've never really liked winter, but I will hate to see it go, if for no other reason than I want to save up the remaining times that I see the new life of spring.

It reminds me of a song with which I used to open my solo shows:

And the wheels go 'round and 'round
The sun comes up and the sun goes down
On the trivial and profound
Like Ezekiel we all watch
As the wheels go 'round.

I don't know when the equinox of our perception of time occurs, but I can tell you that for me it has long since passed. I've been around the Sun forty times. I may not even have as many more trips left. The thing that amazes me is that as it revolves faster and faster, year on year, centrifugal force doesn't just spin it out of orbit.

As if I needed a further reminder of mortality, my brother's gravestone was set this week. The last of his possessions were distributed and my sister-in-law moved back to Indiana. To future generations, eventually we are a name and date carved into a piece of granite. If they are lucky, a few artefacts might survive to be passed down. The seasons will come and go for those still alive until they, too, give up their bodies to the earth and their spirits to God.

I know that we are to look forward to that day when for each of us death is swallowed up by life. Nonetheless, I will continue to appreciate each day I see the sun rise above the horizon and arc across the sky.

Posted by david at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2004

Gatsos and Potatoes

The 30-mile commute to and from work each day is fraught with obstacles. There are two ways for me to get to work.

The main road between these two cathedral cities has temporary traffic lights as they put in permanent traffic lights. At the same place the lights are going in, there is a notorious speed camera. I know, because I got caught there about a year and a half ago.

It is not the only speed camera. To get from home to work using the principal route, I have to pass by three of the hated Gatso cameras. Even though I realise that the cameras will not issue a citation without at least exceeding the speed limit by the barest of margins, there is always someone else using these stretches of highway comtemporaneously who is apparently of the sincere belief that the cameras somehow lower the speed limit from 30 to 20. Invariably, a long queue forms as a consequence.

I've taken to the alternative route. It is a bit more winding, but there has been no road construction until a couple of days ago. The big problem has been the tractors. This has always been a hazard, and not unknown on the main road as well. Unfortunately, it is now time for the potato harvest.

Every day, especially on the way home, I get stuck behind at least two trailers heaped high with spuds. Whilst I know this is important for Mrs H (who works them into every meal) and every chip shop in the land, it takes the average speed of my journey back under 20 mph and increases my commute time by as much as 20 minutes. I'll be glad when the land is once again tuber free.

Posted by david at 11:04 PM | Comments (2)