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Entries in UK (51)


A summer in Oxford

So fast our summer sabbatical in Oxford is over. Weeks flew by filled with interesting meetings, lazy hours in our little garden, long walks along the canals, the occasional beer in an English pub, and visits by the best friends you could imagine. We celebrated some major milestones, 10 years married and Hayden's 6th birthday. We got to re-indulge in pleasures of our youth, with Oxford surprising us with its familiarity to Australian eyes, while encountering new pleasures of today. Even a trip to the hospital was an occasion to smile with a visit from a volunteer clown. A magical couple of months to be treasured.





Claymation with Aardman 

As part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts, I took Hayden to a claymation workshop run by one of the clay modellers who works at Aardman. He made the models for Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and many other Aardman productions, and today he taught us!


The White Cliffs of Dover


Dover Castle

The White Cliffs

The view to France



Feeding the farm animals at Fancy's Farm. Hayden was responsible for rationing the animal feed, doling out one piece at a time to me and Lydia. His favourites were the chickens.

Rock-hopping along the Jurassic coast at Portland Bill

Locals used this winch to drop their boat into the sea, followed by a sail out to the wrecks and scuba-diving to catch lobsters by hand.


EU open day

EU Open Day at the Commission. Hayden met Captain Europe, but was somewhat dubious.

Every country had a booth. Hayden's favourite was the Netherlands.

Disgracefully, the UK didn't bother to turn up for Open Day.

Fortunately, the official UK negotiator realised the collosal mistake the UK was making, and formally made a plea to re-join the EU.

The Minister for Belgium nominated the UK to rejoin the EU

Seconded by Poland

And the UK is back in the EU! Crisis averted everyone!


Brexit is a result of the cowardliness of the Tories

The Leave-Remain compaign was never about sovereignity, it was always about xenophobia, pure and simple. For a tolerant country like the UK, founded on immigration and international empire, this xenophobia does not come naturally. Xenophobia was only a fringe movement on the right until the Tories decided to co-opt the language of racism in order to gain an electoral advantage over Labour. They thought they could repeat UKIP and BNP talking points against immigrants and the EU in order to pick up extra votes. It worked, but they legitimised a monster which has just proven willing to trash the UK economy in order to kick out Polish plumbers. If the Tories had had the moral courage to speak out against xenophobia early and strong, this would never had happened.

So what is gained by Brexit? Basically nothing. What the leave campaign didn't tell you is that the UK only voted against 2% of EU laws, so 98% of EU laws were put in place with the support of the UK government. All EU laws and regulations require the support of either elected governments or elected MEPs, so the UK still had a say over every decision made. Now it won't have a say, but it will have to abide by all of the laws and regulations anyway if it wants access to its largest trading partner. Bravo Leave campaign, you have just reduced the sovereignity of the UK. And if the UK decides not to be part of the EU trading block? Well the British pound instantly dropped 11% on this possibility, so get ready for a slow flight of capital out of the UK and into the US or Europe.

How about immigration? Again, it is disingenuous (i.e., a lie) to say that the UK lost control over its borders to the EU. The UK government was one of the leaders in the push to expand the EU to the east, and when Eastern Europe joined each EU member state was given the possibility to delay free migration. The UK was one of those countries that allowed immediate immigration - as a choice of the UK government. The simple fact is, the high level of immigration to the UK has nothing to do with the EU. It is driven by history, empire lost and the deliberate choice of the UK government to put economic growth over racial purity. So what will happen now? Well a bunch of Brits will lose their jobs in the EU, British retirees won't find it so easy to swan around in southern Spain, and French and German professionals will be discourged from working in London. That's it. The UK will still be a country of immigrants (sorry racists), and the only impact Brexit will have on slowing that process is if the economy collapses so badly that immigrants don't want to come any more.

What a disaster.

A noble woman, victim of xenophobia


The Beards

Just saw The Beards, live in London. A night full of facial hair appreciation.


St Pancras


Finding a suitable vehicle for protest

This is an interesting article about the recent win of the anti-EU party UKIP in England. UKIP voters are described as being part of the anti-politics movement:

They want to protest about the economy, about immigration, about the effects of globalisation, about the detachment of ordinary communities from frontline politics.

They can and should be able to do that. The responsibility lies in their choice of vehicle for that protest. 

This is a wonderful articulation of my feelings about not only UKIP but also parties such as N-VA and Front National. These parties do tap into a deep feeling of digust at the traditional parties, blaming the major parties for not addressing major issues. To at least some degree that digust has a legitimate basis (although in a democracy the fault ultimately lies in the voters). It is not an unreasonable stance to want vote against all the traditional parties of power. It is not unreasonable to feel angry about injustices. It is not unreasonable to protest vote. But UKIP is not a suitable vehicle for a reasonable protest. N-VA is not a suitable vehicle for a reasonable protest. Front National is not a suitable vehicle for a reasonable protest. When you vote for these parties you are not just registering a protest, you are not just voting for the anti-politics aspect of those parties, you are also endorsing their xenophobic roots. 

A protest vote is fine, even to be encouraged, but the vehicle of your protest still needs to be worthy of your vote.


Ingress obsessed

For those who don't play, Ingress is an addictive game where you visit statues and monuments and log the entry into your phone, building up small fields of links for one of the two teams (blue and green). There are a lot of active players, and anything you build up can get torn down in hours or even minutes. While admitting to being moderately obsessed myself, others take this to extreme. Recently the green team in Belgium sent out squads to the different theme parks across Belgium and using an elaborate strategy they managed to create a field of links covering all of Brussels (and half of Flanders) just before the theme parks closed for the year. Of course the blue team couldn't let this this stand, and within hours they had broken into the park just to take down this virtual field. The whole operation took dozens of people many hours of planning and a full day for the execution, and the result only lasted about half an hour:

So just imagine how much creative energy and person-hours went into creating this:

Really, it is amazing what people chose to do with their time, and just how obsessed people can become about their hobbies. But I guess that is what life is for? Spending it on past-times that give you happiness.